During the last few days of New York Giants training camp in Albany, when defensive coordinator Perry Fewell would call for "one nickel," the first-team nickel defense, rookie third-round pick Jayron Hosley would run on the field and join the huddle.
When the Giants offense and defense lined up, Hosley would assume his position in the slot. The guy very often across from him in the white uniforms worn by the offense wears No. 80. Yes, Hosley is cutting his teeth as a nickel corner by shadowing the record-setting, salsa-dancing, cornerback embarrassing Victor Cruz. As we have noted before, Cruz does not take practice lightly. He gives Hosley, and the other Giants' corners, his best stuff every snap.
For a rookie, practice really doesn't get much better than that.
"Victor is a helluva player, man. He's definitely a guy that you can learn a lot from playing the nickel position," Hosley said on Wednesday. "He's got so much speed and quickness, and his routes are so precise you've gotta be on your 'A' game every time you step against him.
"That makes me better."
Hosley is part of a group of young, inexperienced players who will be asked to play critical roles in the Giants' secondary this season.
It has become obvious that the Giants want the 5-foot-10, 178-pound Hosley, and not Antrel Rolle or anyone else, to be their primary slot corner. Second-year man Prince Amukamara, with only seven regular-season games under his belt, will be the starting right cornerback with Terrell Thomas sidelined. Undrafted free agent Will Hill seems, at this time, to have won the 'Bison' role, the hybrid safety/linebacker role that was played the past two seasons by veteran Deon Grant.
"Those guys can play. Every single one of those guys are showing that they are able to play on this level," said Giants veteran safety Kenny Phillips. "They listen. You tell 'em one thing you don't have to tell 'em twice. They're picking up the system, they aren't making too many mistakes.
"They're playing like veterans."
Phillips offered an assessment of each of the three youngsters.
"He's more confident in everything he does. Last year he was like a deer in the headlights," Phillips said. "Now he's locked in. He knows he can cover these guys and he's showing that."
"He can play. He can definitely play," Phillips said. "He's basically locking a lot of our receivers down. He's a physical player, he could start for us today."
Phillips has been impressed by Hosley's matchups with Cruz.
"He's right behind him every step of the way," Phillips said.
"He's a great talent. He's very intelligent. Coach is putting a lot on his plate right now and he's definitely handling it. It's not slowing down his play," Phillips said. "They're definitely moving him around a lot, trying to get him familiar with the system. I think he's doing a great job."
All three players will have to live up to the hype for the Giants' secondary this season. Intentionally or not, youth will be served in the Giants' defensive backfield in 2012.