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Rookie Darian Thompson makes case for starting role

Posted Aug 9, 2016

Rookie Darian Thompson continues to show why he deserves to be the starting free safety

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – Darian Thompson could go wire-to-wire with the Giants’ free safety job.

The third-round draft choice began working with the starters in the spring, he’s taken the first-team snaps throughout training camp, and will start in the preseason opener Friday night vs. the Miami Dolphins. Coach Ben McAdoo admits Thompson is the favorite to hold the job until the season opener in Dallas on Sept. 11.

“He stepped in, he knows football, he gets football,” McAdoo said. “He can communicate the game, and it doesn't seem too big for him. He allows those around him to play fast.”

>> READ: GIANTS UNOFFICIAL DEPTH CHART

If Thompson retains the job, he will be the Giants’ second rookie starter at safety in as many years. In 2015, second-round draft choice Landon Collins became the first Giants rookie safety to start all 16 games, and he led the team with 108 tackles.

Thompson said he is “definitely” a different (read: better) player than he was when he arrived here in May.

“I feel more comfortable with the playbook and that is the number one thing,” he said. “If you are comfortable with the plays, then you go out there and play fast, so that is my main focus.”

As he’s become more immersed in the defense, Thompson’s technique has improved, as have his reactions and responses to situations.

“It is a read and react post-snap,” he said, “but if you know what you are doing pre-snap before the ball is hiked, then it makes everything afterwards a lot easier.”

Starting – and producing – are not new to Thompson. In four seasons at Boise State, he played in 51 games with 44 starts at Boise State, where he was a two-time All-Mountain West first-team selection (2014-15) and set a Mountain West Conference record with 19 career interceptions. The former mark of 18 was held by Utah’s Eric Weddle (2003-06), who is entering his 10th NFL season and is a three-time Pro Bowler and two-time first-team all-pro. Thompson was also credited with 242 tackles (149 solo).

Although he demonstrated a nose for the ball in college, Thompson has yet to pick off a pass in a camp practice.

“It has been a while,” he said. “It's been too long.”

Thompson believes he’ll get his share of opposing passes, especially if he continues to study Steve Spagnuolo’s defense as diligently as he has.

“You have to, especially at this level,” he said. “Everything happens so fast and like I was explaining to you guys earlier, the playbook is my number one focus coming into this training camp and OTA's. Now that I am getting a little bit more comfortable with that, it is making everything else a lot easier.”

>> READ: STANDOUT PLAYERS AT CAMP

So is his partnership with Collins, who has settled in at strong safety after playing free safety last year.

“Definitely, the chemistry is good,” Thompson said. “A lot of times, I know what he is thinking so we are able to play off each other.”

If they keep improving, Collins and Thompson could be doing that for many seasons.

• Collins had everyone holding their breath for a few moments when he went down during the two-minute drill and was surrounded by the team’s medical staff. But after testing his leg, he signaled “thumbs up” and returned to the field.

“Looked like he got kicked,” McAdoo said. “I think he's tight, but looks to be fine.”

• Defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul briefly left practice with a stinger, but is fine.

• Linebacker Keenan Robinson (groin) did not practice today and safety Nat Berhe (hamstring) was limited to individual drills.

• Fullback Nikita Whitlock was carted off with what McAdoo said was an illness.

• Today’s two-minute drill situation was offense taking the ball at its own 45-yard line with 50 seconds remaining, one timeout, and needing a touchdown and two-point conversion to tie the game. Neither Eli Manning nor Ryan Nassib could lead his unit into the end zone. The first team advanced to the 5-yard line but was stranded there after Manning incompletions to Sterling Shepard and Larry Donnell. Nassib’s fumble stopped the second team.

• Ishaq Williams, a free agent from Notre Dame, intercepted a tipped pass and has caught McAdoo’s eye.

“He's a big man that can cover a lot of ground,” McAdoo said. “He's raw, hasn't played a lot of football. So the more reps we can get him, the better.

“He'll be an interesting guy to see play in the game, I'm looking forward to watching him.”