New York Giants safeties coach Dave Merritt addressed the media Wednesday. Here is the transcript of his remarks.
Q: How does the loss of Tyler affect what you will be doing?
A: To be honest with you, I think it hurts more of the special teams coaches than it does the defensive coaches, as far as first second and third down. I just hate it for the young man to go through this. But as we all know, he’s going to be able to practice. But for special teams, he brought so much to the table. He was the leader on the punt team. This kid goes all out every snap. Tyler, I told him yesterday, I said, "Tyler, you’ll get past this as well." But special teams, I definitely think…. Someone is going to have to pick up the slack.
A: Yes. That loss was painful. It happened last year, just as you said. And Antrel went back and studied some of his cornerback skills when he was in Arizona and he had to go down and play in that slot area. Losing Terrell is a big loss for us, but hopefully the guys will rally around him. Don’t forget the young kid that we drafted out of VTech [Jayron Hosley] also. So he has an opportunity to possibly go in and compete for a job. But right now, it’s a big loss for us.
Q: Is that what you kind of hoped? Whether it’s Hosley or somebody will snare that job so Antrel can be a safety again full time?
A: The position that we had him playing the past two years has been pretty darn good. The kid has stepped up. He has had the ability to play the run and the pass. And for him to be able to step in there and do the things he did… You go back and look at the Green Bay tape. You look at the playoff game in Green Bay. Antrel did a phenomenal job in the slot. You would love to get him back playing as a true safety position, but we all can’t forget but he came in here as a corner, and he moved to the safety position. We’d love to have him at safety, but we’re going to put him in the best position we can afford to help ourselves as a team.
Q: [Antrel transitioned into his role last season after multiple injuries at the cornerback position]. Do you think now you have to go through that again? Or does he already accepted it again?
A: Just two days ago, I went up to him. I had a one-on-one conversation with him. I said, ‘Antrel we’re going to put you down in the slot just like your position last year. I’m not saying its going to be permanent, but we need you to get some reps there.’ He said no problem coach. And then of course, after the Terrell Thomas situation, I went back to him again. I said ‘O.K. Antrel, you need to think of yourself as a starter at that position.’ He said whatever it takes. Antrel has been a tremendous leader for us. His ability, like I said, to be able to play on the slot, in the box as a deep field safety. It’s something that you just don’t have on each team. But his ability to go in and learn the defense and to go in and be able to play all the multiple different techniques, is really a tremendous asset for us.
Q: Him seeing how he can help the defense and the team on the whole allows him to now get out there right away?
A: No question. That’s the one thing that we did last year on our run. All the guys started trusting and believing the guy that’s next to him. When they started understanding and believing that the guy that’s next to him is going to be where he’s supposed to be, the guys started playing well. They started playing well. They started playing faster.
Q: It almost sounds like your first option now is to kind of have Antrel in the slot and then you’re hoping maybe plan B would be?…
A: That is correct. That is correct. That is correct.
Q: Because you know what you got there already?
A: That is correct. We won a Super Bowl with that one. So it wasn’t too bad.
Q: Will Hill had himself a practice the other day…
A: Yeah. Will is a guy that we all see his athletic ability. This kid has speed. He has quickness, he has burst and acceleration, and this young man has all the tools that you want as a defensive back. The thing that Will is going to have learn, and we all know, is the playbook – the details of the details. And when you come here as a safety, you have to be ready to control all the coverage adjustments and you have to be ready to get everyone lined up accordingly. That’s going to be a challenge for him because I don’t know if he had to do that at Florida, but he’s learning. He is definitely learning. You guys know… you’ve been around me for years now. I have my guys playing right and left. So when it comes to who’s the strong safety and who’s the free safety, well we’re all just safeties. So a guy can go in and see a formation and if he’s on the right side, he knows the technique to play within a particular call.
Q: Was there anything in particular led to that? Did something click for him? Did he say anything about that?
A: Instincts. Instinctive. This kid has the ability to see the run. Or I like to say, see ball get ball. And this kid can see the ball and he goes and gets the ball. He’s done a good job for us. Hopefully he can continue to develop. He has a long way to go. Don’t get me go. Right now, he’s displaying the talents that we need.
Q: .... I think I see the ball? I’m in the wrong spot?
A: Yeah. That can be some of the problems. The thing is that I try to make sure I give him the keys to what they need to read. After they take their first read, they need to understand what is the second read. And then once you get into a feel if you can trust your instincts and trust the ability to go and plant and drive at the reception point, it’s going to allow you to make more plays on the ball. But it comes back to understanding route concepts and all the things we talked about as coaches.
Q: In order to play Antrel against guys, you will need a third safety in the field right?
A: You know what? You do. Right now, we’re trying to figure out who that guy will be. You look at some of the linebackers that we have here. We have so many athletic linebackers. You look at [Keith Rivers]… These guys can actually go and do some of the things that we did last year versus 12 personnel. So these are so athletic. But once you put three wide receivers on the field, you’re going to have to have that third Safety in the field.