New York Giants' cornerback Terrell Thomas has played the safety position before as a nickel defender. The Giants have talked here and there during the past year about Thomas possibly playing safety this season ,and secondary coach David Merritt is confident he would be a good fit.
"I think Terrell is correct when it comes to playing the low position because he's played the nickel, so he's been in and out of those linebacker positions," said Merritt.
In 2011 Thomas tore his ACL in a preseason game causing him to miss all of the season including the incredible run to Super Bowl XLVI victory. In 2012 he attempted to make a comeback to only re-tear the ACL in training camp forcing him to miss all of that season. Two seasons in a row were thrown out the window, and Thomas is determined to make sure it doesn't happen for a third straight year.
Those aren't the only two times Thomas has torn that ACL though. He tore it once when he was at USC. Coming back to play again and staying healthy will be a major accomplishment. General manager Jerry Reese entertained the idea of moving Thomas to safety earlier in the year to help him make an effective comeback without too much strain on his knee.
In response to what Reese said Thomas agreed and said he'd figured he'd one day move to the safety position later in his career. "Your knee is in a more unstable situation [at cornerback]," said Thomas. "You have to react to the receiver. Safety is more you're dictating. So I think that's why Jerry Reese said that. But I already knew I'd switch to safety later in my career just because of my body type, the way I play. So I'm not scared at all."
Merritt has confidence in Thomas, but makes it clear that they won't really know what he can handle until he's thrown into the fire. Will his knee be able to handle the speed coming toward him? During OTAs Thomas has reportedly done some individual drills but not participated in any of the coverage drills, 7-on-7 or 11-on-11 action.
"Going back and having to back pedal and trying to play top down, that's the biggest difference," said Merritt. "Trying to keep everything in front and inside and until you're in that position, it may be easier to say it right now as you're standing on the sideline, but until you're put in that position and you have speed running at you, you don't know how that feels. It's a big difference, but he should do well if he has to go back there."
Secondary/cornerbacks coach Peter Giunta compared Thomas' situation to that of former Giants wide receiver Domenik Hixon, who missed of two seasons with a pair of torn ACLs. Hixon caught 39 passes last before signing with the Carolina Panthers as a free agent.
"We’re going to do what the offense did with Domenik Hixon, try to bring him along slowly. Give him a certain number of reps each practice to get him from the practices to the first preseason game," Giunta said. "We’re going to try and manage him well and just give him a very limited role to start."
Though the Giants have depth at the safety position with players like Antrel Rolle, Stevie Brown, Will Hill, Ryan Mundy, and Cooper Taylor he thinks bringing Thomas on board would only make the position stronger. "The fact that we have all the guys that are coming as far as when you talk about Terrell Thomas," said Merritt. "So with the fact that we have the veterans that are here to be able to have the guys to come back who have played before it is a great feeling. It really is."
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