Darian Thompson's biggest personal goal as the Giants approach training camp is simple:
"I just want to be in the best shape ever," Thompson said. "Be here with a mindset, determined and ready to get to work and ready to play real football."
Thompson will once again be competing to start alongside Landon Collins at free safety. The Boise State product earned his first career start as a rookie back in Week 2 of 2016, but his season was cut short due to a foot injury that required season-ending surgery. The former third-round pick rebounded last year to start all 16 games. His 75 total tackles ranked third on the team.
As the incumbent, Thompson may appear to have the inside track to be Collins' running mate again. But with a deep group that includes Andrew Adams and newcomers Michael Thomas, Curtis Riley, Orion Stewart and undrafted rookie free agent Sean Chandler, Thompson knows nothing is guaranteed.
"I love it," Thompson said. "Competition around here is huge. Luckily for me I have a great group of guys that I'm competing with. We look forward to it each and every one of us every day. We're all here for each other, so whatever happens, happens."
"It's fun. That's what this business is – competition every year, competing at the highest level, which only makes you a better player," added Adams, who started 13 games as a rookie in 2016. "We're all family in the DB room, everybody is competing, and everybody is just looking to help the team win that championship trophy."
For Thompson, the biggest area of focus during the team's offseason program has been on learning the playbook of Giants new defensive coordinator, James Bettcher. While much of the attention has been on the front seven and the switch from a 3-4 to a 4-3 scheme, Thompson says versatility in the secondary will play a key role in 2018.
"I think he has a great scheme," Thompson said. "He brings a lot of energy as a coach. The guys on defense are learning how to play with each other, play around each other. We're starting to get the details down and it's been fun so far."
Whether it's playing man, zone, middle of the field or blitzing off the edge, Thompson says the multiple looks in Bettcher's scheme will be an advantage for the defense against opposing offenses.
"There's a lot of different looks we can give," Thompson said. "A lot of different pressures, a lot of different disguises. You can never really tell where each individual will be. As long as we keep practicing the techniques, the fundamentals and we learn it like the back of our hand, I think offenses will have a tough time with it."
So far Thompson seems to be picking up the new defense just fine. He had an interception during the team's second OTA practice off a tipped ball by linebacker Thurston Armbrister. That's more like it for the three-year veteran, who earned a reputation in college as a ball-hawk. His 19 career interceptions at Boise State set a new Mountain West conference record.
As Collins works his way back from offseason surgery, Thompson and the rest of the safeties have mixed and matched at practice. The constant rotation has given Bettcher and defensive backs coach Lou Anarumo and assistant defensive backs coach Deshea Townsend plenty of opportunities to see different pairings among the group.
Thompson likes the way Anarumo and Townsend coach the group up as soon as they see an issue or a mistake.
"If you're not coached up right away, you're kind of thinking about that until the meeting room, Thompson said. "With these guys, you don't have to worry about that. They'll go ahead and get it out of the way as soon as it happens and you can quickly flush it from your memory bank and continue on."