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Defensive coaches assess progress at OTAs

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The Giants defensive assistant coaches discuss the team's progress so far this offseason:

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – The Giants' position coaches spoke publicly today for the first time since the beginning of the team's offseason conditioning program and organized team activities. Here is a sampling of what the defensive coaches had to say:


NEWS
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PHOTOS
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VIDEOS
> [Go inside the linebackers huddle](http://www.giants.com/videos/videos/Go-inside-the-linebackers-huddle/fd92955a-aa2c-46d3-a9fa-fffdac3f0223)


Defensive line coach Patrick Graham:

Q: Is the loss of Johnathan Hankins still a big loss, or does the talent on the D-line minimize that?

"Hank was a good player, good friend and a diligent worker. I believe, when you lose players, that's part of it. In this league, it's a business. You have good players that are going to go somewhere else. You're not going to be able to hold onto those guys. We're going to do what we have to do to win in 2017. Just because we lost a player, there is no excuse for us losing. You guys don't want to hear about that. Mr. (John) Mara and coach (Ben) McAdoo isn't going to want to hear about that. Our production is how we play as a group in that room this year. It doesn't matter in this league if you minimize."

Q: On second-round draft choice Dalvin Tomlinson, who would be Hankins' successor as a starter at defensive tackle:

"I think any rookie coming into this league, they don't know anything about this league aside from the stuff they read and see from the media and televison. I think it's important for them to stick with what they've done in being a good football player up until this point. An organization in the NFL wanted them. To be humble there, listen to the players and listen to the coaches, and just diligently work through the process. He's a pretty even-keel guy. He'll be able to handle it. We will see how it plays out once the competition comes and the season comes."

• On defensive ends Jason Pierre-Paul and Olivier Vernon and defensive tackle Damon Harrison all having long-term contracts:

"As a coach, collectively for the room, I think there is some stability there. These guys proved it last year and they did a good job on the line last year. This year is a totally new year and we have to go back out there and re-establish where we want to be for 2017. In this league, you can't look too far behind and you definitely can't look ahead because no one cares. You just have to keep establishing what your identity is going to be every day and just keep getting better."

• On how defensive end Devin Taylor, a recent addition, will fit in:

"He's a proven veteran in this league. He has to prove himself again, but I think as a defensive end, he's shown some great flexibility in the past. It's a good piece to have and we will see how the competition plays out."

Linebackers coach Bill McGovern:

• On second-year pro B.J. Goodson, the leading candidate to start at middle linebacker:

"I think he, like everybody has kind of noticed, he just seemed a little bit more comfortable being in the system, another year being around it. You see him more comfortable gaining more confidence as he continues to get more and more reps in practice. … The second year in the system really (is) for a good number of these guys, third for some, but it's understanding the little nuances that go into it, getting total command of it. For B.J., in particular he is doing a great job in terms of preparing the night before, being ready when he comes in the morning but there is no substitution for reps.

• On Goodson's skill set:

"He looks like he will be good in the run, but again, without pads on right now, we're moving around but it's not anything that is going to be real definitive. He is a guy that looks like he can tackle, we've seen on tape that he can tackle. He moves well. It looks like he is moving better in the pass but again you always move better once you always have a better understanding of how you fit in this scheme."

• On whether Goodson can be a leader in his second season:

"I think for a young player it's always hard, especially with some of the guys we have. We have some great leaders on our defensive side. There are too many of them to name. I think the positive there is that it doesn't all have to fall on him. Like I said, second year, he's more comfortable with his scheme, but he doesn't have to be the ultimate leader because we have the guys upfront next to him – J.C. (Johnathan Casillas), Keenan (Robinson), L.C. (Landon Collins) and Jackrabbit (Janoris Jenkins), all the guys on the back end. There is a lot of leadership and a lot of guys that can distribute the responsibility."

• On J.T. Thomas, who hasn't practiced this spring after tearing his ACL in the 2016 opener in Dallas, forcing him to miss the rest of the season:

"He is in all the meetings and everything else. He is great. You know, he is into it and all of that stuff, but again we haven't seen him on the field. I have seen him working with the trainers and everything else. What his actual status is you would have to ask them. I don't know. He has been in all the meetings and doing everything we have asked otherwise."

• On whether Devon Kennard's role will expand this year:

"(Last season), D.K. kept taking on more and more responsibility. Finding his skill set improved a little bit in that he has value rushing the passer, and that he has value on first down, second down, and third down. It was one of those situations as we developed through the year we realized that he had more and more value. He has continued to work on it through the offseason, and we are excited about where he is headed now."

Secondary/cornerbacks coach Tim Walton:

Q: How is Eli Apple progressing?

"He is doing well. You could tell in the first three or four practices that his maturity and maturation process, understanding his movement on the field, his technique is getting better. I was pleased with the way he has been progressing so far."

Q: He said last week that he has added weight. Does he look different on the field?

"His movement skills are more explosive. His quick twitch and plant and drive. Acceleration, coming in and out of breaks, he is playing more powerful. When you can move that well and have that strength, it goes hand in hand with being a better overall football player. Then, the year of growth that he went through last year, the mental aspect was a big improvement for him. I look for good things from him."

Q: How helpful is it to you to have veterans like Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and Janoris Jenkins in your room?

"It's good. Anytime you have experienced guys and guys that are veteran players that are very athletic and bring multiple things they can do to the table and love to play the game, it makes it good for the room. A lot of young guys can see it and model after those guys. It gives you a lot of confidence in the growth of the room with that kind of leadership."

Q: DRC is entering his 10th season. What do you look for to ensure that he's still at the top of his game?

"What I try to do is coach him on all the details. I work with him on the little things and try to continue to challenge him mentally. I try to keep stuff going, because he played a lot of football and knows a lot of football. I try and keep him fresh on little things that keep him engaged on the knowledge of the game. He has played so long and he does know a lot. You do that to try and make him grow a little more. Just keep working on the technique. You want them to always feel like they're making a steady improvement. There is always something that you can learn off last year that you can do better this year as far as alignment, technique and the certain alignment that you could be. That's what we're going to need."

Secondary/safeties coach David Merritt:

Q: How's Darian Thompson (who miss most of his rookie season with a foot injury)?

"He looks good, (considering) the fact that he's coming off a leg injury. The one day he complained that it was sore, two weeks ago. Since then, he looks good. He's transitioning. I see him actually bursting and coming in and out of his transition. He's doing a good job. There is still some ways to go and hopefully training camp we will be able to really test that foot. Right now, he's going through all the individual drills. I'm happy and excited."

Q: If he's healthy, is he the other safety with Landon (Collins)?

"I'm going to be honest with you, you can sit here right now and say yes, but I can't sit here and take away from what Andrew Adams has done. I think they're all competing for a starting job. That second safety has been elusive for us. To have two guys that can actually step in there and actually hold down the position, hopefully we will find that solid piece this year. But we need four good guys. If we can get four good guys, it's going to be great."

Q: Collins made a big jump from year one to year two. Do you see anything that suggests he can make another jump from year two to year three?

"I do. One of my family members was asking me this about Landon and what a terrific year he had last year. Don't get me wrong, he played out of this world. But I think there is so much room for Landon to improve mentally as well as understanding situational football and technique. Do I see him continuing to make that jump? Yes. As far as the interceptions and some of the wow plays he made last year, I hope that continues, I really do. There were a couple of times where that ball found him versus him going and finding the ball. He made the plays last year that he dropped his rookie year. Hopefully, this upcoming year he will continue to make those plays if he's in the area. The one pick that he made against Cincinnati down the middle of the field was fantastic. He was playing the half field and he came over the top of the tight end. That was an excellent play. I hope to see him continue to make plays like that."

Q: What is his ceiling?

"I wish I could tell you that. Right now, if I was rating him one to 10 as far as where he is right now, Landon is at seven7. I think he can get up to playing at an 8½, nine consistently. You're talking always in the running for DPOY (Defensive Player of the Year) and constantly making Pro Bowls, things like that. Last year was such a big jump for the kid and I'm proud of him. That was last year. Antrel Rolle, he came off his big season the next year and didn't do as well. I'm trying to make sure he doesn't get caught in any type of trap. I understand right now that he was the best coming out of high school and the best coming out of college. Now, he's here every year and there is going to be a new crop of guys coming in. The safeties around the league are humble. You have to make sure you're humble. Keep your body in shape, keep your mind strong and understand constantly learning the game of football and studying your opponents."

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