The New York Giants are starting from scratch at the safety position. They have two rookies, a second-year man who spent last season on IR and a third-year man who spent his entire second season on IR. No Antrel Rolle. No Deon Grant. No Kenny Phillips. No one, in fact, who has started a regular-season NFL game.
"There's youth and there's inexperience there," defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo said on Tuesday. "It doesn't matter what system you're in in my opinion defensively, those two particular guys are really important. Everybody else relies on them. The quicker we can get to the other nine trusting them the better off we'll be. I'm not sure that we're there yet.
"I think it's going to be a work in progress. But we'll get there."
The Giants have rookies Landon Collins (second-round pick) and Mykkele Thompson (fifth-round pick), second-year players Nat Berhe and Bennett Jackson and third-year man Cooper Taylor. Undrafted free agent Justin Currie is also on the roster.
Early indications are that Collins will be one of the starters. With Berhe missing all of OTAs Taylor appears to have an inside track on the second safety spot. Safeties coach Dave Merritt isn't counting on anything at this point, however.
"Oh it's wide open. Wide open," Merritt said.
Merritt, in his 12th year with the Giants and his 10th coaching safeties, said the situations reminds him of 2007 when undrafted rookie James Butler earned a starting spot alongside Gibril Wilson and helped the Giants win a Super Bowl.
"The chemistry is what I'm looking for right now. I'm looking for the chemistry on the back end, the guys that can gel together, guys who can make the call and feed off of one another," Merritt said. "You can't have two cooks in the kitchen. I've had that w/my wife and her mom.
"You need to have one leader back there, and that's what I'm still looking for. It's elusive, I'm searching for it."
Merritt said several times that his safeties are "very slow" right now in making calls.
"I need to have a leader come up and emerge out of this mini-camp and emerge out of training camp," Merritt said.
"It's a learning curve and right now we're working out the kinks. There's going to be some mistakes," Merritt said. "You're allowed to make a mistake. but you can't have a mistake that compounds another one. I always tell ‘em ‘stay outta jail.' If you're a repeat offender, if you're constantly making the same mistake make a new mistake. Don't make the same mistake. The guys that are repeat offenders, those are the ones that you can't deal with."
"You can't be a repeat offender and continue to go to jail."
Spagnuolo, returning for his second stint as Giants defensive coordinator, admitted that dealing with the youthful safeties is not an easy task.
"It's a challenge right now. It's a challenge for them, it's a challenge for our patience and trust in them, but every day it gets better," Spagnuolo said. "I think every day there's a trust gained there from linebackers and corners."
The Giants have this mini-camp, training camp and the preseason for the young safeties to grow up and earn that trust. Spagnuolo and Merritt will be working feverishly to try to make it happen.