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Ross Cockrell aims to build off breakthrough season


Cornerback Ross Cockrell recorded three interceptions in his first season with the Giants:

As the Giants finalized their 53-man roster over Labor Day Weekend, they made a last-minute trade with the Steelers, sending over a conditional draft choice for cornerback Ross Cockrell.

He was supposed to back up a secondary heralded as one of the NFL's best groups heading into the season, but he found himself playing a primary role by year's end. Cockrell, originally a fourth-round draft choice out of Duke in 2014, led the league with three interceptions in the final two weeks -- two in Arizona and another vs. Washington in the finale.

Cockrell had just two career interceptions in his first 57 games, both coming in 2015 with Pittsburgh. With the Giants, he had a "great opportunity to grow." However, it came at the expense of losing Pro Bowl cornerback Janoris Jenkins for the second half of the season due to injury while Eli Apple and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie were in and out.

The constant lineup changes forced Cockrell to learn multiple positions.

"Well, I just love playing football," Cockrell said. "Anytime, any chance I get an opportunity to play on the field -- no matter if it's at corner, nickel, special teams -- I'm going to embrace that opportunity. So I was glad I had the chance to do a lot of different things here."

Cockrell added: "I think the biggest challenge playing nickel is adjusting to the different speed of playing on the inside than playing on the outside. I definitely had to adjust to it. I grew into it more as the season went on."

His three picks were evidence of that. Now comes a pivotal offseason for Cockrell and the entire franchise.  

"The organization is terrific. I can't say enough about it," Cockrell said. "To experience New York City was also great. Unfortunately, we didn't get the record that we wanted, but we're going to work hard this offseason to correct any mistakes that we made. … I just want my overall endurance to be better to make sure that I'm at the top of my game athletically, physically going into the season and making that last throughout the season."

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