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2014 New York Giants Training Camp Preview: Safeties

July 22nd, 2014 at 9:00 AM
By Dan Benton

With the offseason workout program now a thing of the past and the official start to training camp having arrived on July 21st (report date and physicals), it's time to look ahead to each positional battle and how they will ultimately shape the New York Giants' final 53-man roster. Today we examine the safeties.

SAFETIES

Who's in: Quintin Demps, Nat Berhe, C.J. Barnett, Kyle Sebetic, Thomas Gordon
Who's out: Will Hill, Ryan Mundy
The Names: Antrel Rolle, Stevie Brown, Cooper Taylor, Quintin Demps, Nat Berhe, C.J. Barnett, Kyle Sebetic, Thomas Gordon

LOSS OF WILL HILL

On paper, the secondary of the New York Giants looks tremendously deep and talented. So just imagine what it would have looked like if Will Hill were still among the group of safeties. Unfortunately, the talented Florida product was unable to keep himself clean, and following his third league suspension in a three-year period, the Giants had no choice but to parts ways with him.

The loss of Hill will be a difficult one for the Giants to overcome, but given the circumstances, they had no choice. Still, it's impossible to deny what he brought to their team and the defense in particular, as his return coincided with the addition of linebacker Jon Beason a season ago, which was the very moment Perry Fewell's group turned things around. He ended the season as one of the highest rated safeties in the league via Pro Football Focus, and we even named to their Top 101 Players of 2013 list.

But, at the end of the day, captain Anrtel Rolle said it best: there's no place for rule violations on the Giants.

"Obviously I’m extremely disappointed," Rolle said. "That’s something that we don’t need around here. We don’t need to have bad pub, guys ending up on Twitter saying, ‘What’s going on, what’s up with the secondary,’ this, that and the other. It’s a bad reflection. It doesn’t look good.

"As professionals, you have to go out there and carry yourself in a certain manner and you understand the do’s and don’ts of this league, even within yourself. We’re all aware out here, we know right from wrong. It’s too easy to do right as opposed to keep doing wrong. … Every man has to be accountable for their own actions."

So now the Giants are task with replacing Hill — not only on the 53-man roster, but his high level of production against both the run and pass. Luckily for them, they have an Ace up their sleeve known as Stevie Brown, who is returning from an ACL tear and looking to replicate his career-best season of 2012.

"I don’t have any limits whenever I do anything," Brown added. "I feel great. I can run, I can jump, I can land on one leg, I can land on my left leg, push off equally off of both legs whenever they put the little tracking unit on me and measure when I was rehabbing and doing everything. All my stuff was balanced out. I feel great."

Having a healthy Brown back on the field is almost as good as another free agent addition for the Giants. And if he can return to his 2012 form, which saw him snag a team-leading eight interceptions (returned for 307 yards), that would be a tremendous boost for an already vastly improved secondary.

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FOLLOW THE LEADER

As Stevie Brown returns and assumes his starting role, he will do so alongside Antrel Rolle, who is entering the final year of his contract with the New York Giants. And while he admits the contract situation has been on his mind, Rolle is determined to avoid it impacting his play on the field. Rather, as is usually the case, the second-year defensive captain is focused solely on winning following what he's described as a miserable and heartbreaking 2013 campaign.

All of that is obviously good news for the Giants, especially when factoring in Rolle's intense offseason workouts. He trained down in Miami as if he were a rookie and it's that sort of dedication that had his position coach recently singing his praises.

"With Antrel’s ability to continue to learn and grow he hasn’t, in my opinion, hasn’t scratched [the surface of] his ability as a safety yet. Last year as a glimpse of what Antrel could actually become. Just imagine if he had started that maybe eight years before at the position," safeties coach Dave Merritt said. "Again, the first couple of years you all know we played him at nickel, we played him at bison, we played him at corner, we played him at safety and now he’s able to just play strictly safety and it’s coming together for him well."

It will now become the job of the other safeties to follow in Rolle's footsteps. And, thus far, Cooper Taylor, who will be battling for the final spot as free agent addition Quintin Demps is all but assured the No. 3 role, has done exactly that.

"Cooper Taylor is another big kid. Cooper hopefully has the ability this year to break in and have the impact for us on special teams if he can stay healthy, which of course was the issue for him last year," Merritt told Inside Football. "The sky’s the limit for this young man. He’s big, he’s strong, he’s fast, but again Cooper is going to get his chance to shine on the field and in the preseason games, which is going to be really big."

Taylor bulked up considerably this offseason and even saw a few first-teams reps following the release of Will Hill. And although he realizes there's a tremendous opportunity now ahead of him, he also knows it's going to be a battle as fifth-round pick Nat Berhe, C.J. Barnett, Kyle Sebetic and Thomas Gordon are also all hungry for a roster spot.

"You definitely see the opportunity there. But as the NFL is, it's a competition; it's between me and everyone else other than Antrel and Stevie," Taylor said earlier this offseason. "Everyone else is fighting for the rest of the jobs to get on this roster. Every day you've got to compete, show what you've got and make enough plays in order for the team to keep you here."

Late-round pick Nat Berhe and undrafted rookie free agent C.J. Barnett would appear to be the most serious competition for Taylor on paper, but until the pads are actually put on, we won't really know. Still, it would be considered a bit of a shock to see either Demps or Taylor lose out on their respective spots, as the final four safeties are more than likely battling for a chance to land on the practice squad.

EARLY PROJECTIONS

Projected Starters: Antrel Rolle, Stevie Brown
Additional Depth: Quintin Demps, Cooper Taylor, Nat Berhe (practice squad)

Also…

Seeing your team play in the SuperBowl is priceless. Watching the SuperBowl live in the stands for $1 per week is beyond priceless. Find out how at TicketScore.com, the future of Championship Tickets. Tags: Antrel Rolle, C.J. Barnett, Cooper Taylor, Dave Merritt, Football, Kyle Sebetic, Nat Berhe, New York, New York Giants, NFL, Quintin Demps, Stevie Brown, Thomas Gordon, Will Hill

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7 Responses to “2014 New York Giants Training Camp Preview: Safeties”

  1.  fanfor55years says:

    I just have a feeling about Berhe. He either makes it as fourth safety or he’s the one who gets on the practice squad. The kid is a football player.

    Will Hill will always be “the one that got away”. He has the talent to be the best safety in the NFL, and I thought he would become exactly that when we signed him. He was headed there in 2013. There was no choice but to cut him, but it sure would have been nice to have that kid back there for the next 8-10 years. Paired with ‘Trel and with Brown and Taylor and Behre competing for the other two positions, we’d have had the best back of the defense in the league without question. We’ll still be very good, but with Hill we’d have been great.

    But even with what we have, I fully expect this to be the year that we see that given a chance Prince Amukamara CAN not only stay close to his man but can become one of the elite corners in the league (as opposed to always giving five yards of space in order to make sure no one got over the top of the defense). Teamed up with DRC and Thurmond that secondary should be awfully potent.

    If Fewell doesn’t get more aggressive with this group then there’s no hope for him. Given what he has back there he should be calling stunts and blitzes a lot more up front, knowing that the back of his defense can help bail out any failures up front but always forcing the offense to deal with pressure to make quick, smart, decisions.

    •  rlhjr says:

      There is no question that the secondary is the best part of this defense.
      That is not a bad thing in today’s NFL. However, call me crazy and spoiled but I have to point out that in order for this defense and team to take it’s place amongst the upper tier of teams, these three things must happen:

      A middle linebacker with skill aggressiveness and smarts must be drafted.
      A left offensive tackle with the same attributes as above must be drafted.
      A run stopping/pass rushing defensive end must be drafted.

      In a good year the draft might yield such players in the first three rounds.
      However, no matter the order for this ball club to rise back to a dominant position within this league, those players must be inserted into the lineup.
      No if’s and’s or butts. If any disagree, that is of course your purgative.
      However, close inspection of this ball club indicates nothing less than what I’ve posted here be done. It’s just a fact.

      As for Chris Snee…………..REPOST

      I quit pounding Snee months ago. It came to me the guy had a mother and kids that love him. He was only trying to do what any of us would. Make his body do what his mind wanted it to, and get paid for doing so. That is after what each and every NFL player is trying to do.

      However, when he spoke of getting back I knew it was just his pride speaking.
      All jokes aside, someone (Coughlin) should have had “THE TALK” with this kid two seasons ago. Because it was clear he was done at that point.

      Kujo is right, Snee was a genuine a$$ kicker in his prime. In fact he and Diehl were really the only two nasty physical SOB’s (Honorable mention McKenzie) the team had. O’Hara and Suibert had nasty attitudes even if they were not the last word in physicality.

      But slowly Snee began being the man caught with his had in the cookie jar on third down holding calls. Especially IMPORTANT third down calls. That’s not good news from any interior line position.

      All n All a really good offensive lineman who father time caught up to.
      God bless him, all he best.

      •  fanfor55years says:

        As you probably know, I fully agree in regard to the left offensive tackle.

        As for the other two, I’m not so sure. If we see the 2011 JPP this season then the combination of he and Moore should anchor down the defensive end spots for a lot of years, though it would also be important to get a third top DE in here via the draft (but NOT anywhere near the priority that would force them to go after that player with their first pick, which is where most of the “elite” DEs tend to get selected).

        Middle linebacker? Very tough to do unless you’ll use your first pick on a kid who is a bit of a gamble. Colleges don’t seem to be turning out good MLBs these days as much as they are sending along 230-pound guys who can play on the outside in the NFL but can’t stand up to the rigors inside unless they have the frame to gain 20-25 pounds.

        I think in 2015 we have to go after that left tackle with our first pick. I also think we’ll need to sign JPP. And draft a talented defensive end somewhere in our first four picks. As for the linebacker? Hope one comes along but in the meantime hope Jon Beason stays healthy and Dan Fox develops. It’s going to be hard to find “that guy” in the draft unless a Willis appears in the college ranks, and if he does the only way the Giants can get him is by trading up in the draft and taking a route that teams are very reluctant to take since it means trading away a big part of their draft for a single target who may not prove out at the next level.

  2.  GOAT56 says:

    Surprised at only 4 safeties. I think we have to strongly consider keeping 5 safeties because Cooper is the only one under contract for next year and minus hill we need all the young talent we can get. Berhe reminds me of Cooper last year in that we may keep him on the 53 because of the future more than this year.

    The more I think about it I see keeping 4 DTs as more likely. If we are keeping Quarless on the PS we have talent waiting on the wings should injuries occur. keeping 5 DEs makes much more sense than 5 DTs because Ayers will play the Tuck role as DT on passing downs and playing so much nickel that role is not small. I have questions about our durability at DT which is why I want to carry 5 DTs but keeping talent at other positions like safety just might make more sense. It might be Kuhn vs Patterson for a roster spot. And given the offseason reports Kuhn has a better chance than many would think at first glance if we do only keep 4 DTs.

    • Dan BentonDan Benton says:

      I just don’t see how they can keep a 5th safety when they may end up with 6 CBs. When you account for DeOssie as the long-snapper, the team really begins to run out of roster spots. By adding a 5th safety, it would eliminated a 6th safety. I already had to go back and remove a DT for that exact reason and adding a 5th safety would force me to remove someone from somewhere else, too.

      •  GOAT56 says:

        2 QBs
        4 RBs
        1 FB
        6 WRs
        3 TEs
        9 OL
        4 DTs
        5 DEs
        5 LBs
        6 CBs
        5 Safeties
        3 ST

        Is what I’m thinking today. I think Berhe would offer more as a 5th saftey long term wise than Herzlich or Fox do at LB. Beason’s progress definitely factors in. 11 DBs is a lot but not uncommon in today’s NFL. The only position I feel like we could eb keeping a player though the talent doesn’t dictate it is 6th WR. If Holiday loses the KR job like it was predicted here then as just a PR and 6th WR he doesn’t provide enough value for a roster spot to me. But with this offense I think we need 6 WRs for depth purposes.

        • Dan BentonDan Benton says:

          I’d honestly be surprised if the Giants go with 5 LBs. With new faces and inexperience, Beason hurt and a rookie certain to make the roster, I think they need to keep a 6th.

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