We've reached the point in our pre-training camp preview the New York Giants' positional depth charts where we can switch from focusing on the front seven and turn our focus on the secondary. We'll start by looking at the cornerbacks since they are the first line of pass defense.
2014 Depth Chart
|LCB||Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie||Trumaine McBride||Jayron Hosley (suspended)|
|Slot||Walter Thurmond||Trumaine McBride|
|RCB||Prince Amukamara||Zack Bowman||Chandler Fenner (practice squad)|
2015 Depth Chart
|LCB||Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie||Jayron Hosley||Chykie Brown|
|Slot||Trumaine McBride||Mike Harris||Josh Gordy|
|RCB||Prince Amukamara||Chandler Fenner||Trevin Wade|
Additions - Mike Harris (2014 practice squad acquisition), Josh Gordy (free agent), Trevin Wade (
Departures - Walter Thurmond, Zack Bowman
Have The Corners Improved?
The Giants seemingly had two different cornerback depth charts in 2014. There was the depth chart they had as they wrapped up training camp. Looking at that depth chart, the Giants have taken a step back. Trumaine McBride and Mike Harris are good players. When McBride was -- basically -- a full time starter in 2013, he was one of the best players in the NFL that nobody was talking about. That being said, Thurmond was arguably the top slot corner in the NFL when the Giants signed him.
But then there was the depth chart that the Giants played with for most of the 2014 season. That was after Walter Thurmond, Prince Amukamara, and Trumaine McBride were placed on the Injured Reserve list, and DRC became a part-time player thanks to a painful bout with IT band syndrome.
Compared to that depth chart, the Giants are miles ahead going into the 2015 season.
Prince Amukamara was playing at a Prowbowl level before suffering a torn biceps. Prince posted a great 58.2 passer rating against, with 37 t tackles, 11 passes defensed, and three interceptions in the eight games he played in 2014. Prince should be able to play like that again in 2015, and he is a tremendous upgrade over the corners that replaced him in 2014.
Across from Amukamara, DRC has added nearly 20 pounds to his 6-2 frame to account for the increased aggression and physicality of Steve Spagnuolo's defense. It remains to be seen how DRC will cope with the added mass, whether he will still have the unique blend of speed and quickness that make him so effective. But considering how his snaps were limited last year, a consistently available DRC should be an upgrade.
Perhaps the greatest improvement could come from a depth player stepping up. Ideally, Prince and DRC will take every snap in 2015. However, having depth players step up gives Spags more options for defensive formations and viable options for giving some rest to starters. Mike Harris played well after being acquired by the Giants, and he should help stabilize the slot corner position.
The player to keep an eye on for improvement the most is former 3rd round pick Jayron Hosley. Hosley was considered a first-round talent while at Virginia Tech, where his athleticism and aggression made him a solid cover corner and a playmaker. But his success as a boundry corner in an aggressive defense did not translate well to the slot position in Perry Fewell's less aggressive defense. However under Steve Spagnuolo, Hosley is back on the outside in an aggressive defense, and he likes the change:
"Playing the nickel the last three years I had my ups and downs. It's been a journey for me, so getting back outside where I'm comfortable, where I made a name for myself, I feel like it suits me better, feel like I'm more comfortable," Hosley said. "[I'm] just getting my feet back on the ground."
"It's been a journey for me off the field and staying healthy and playing to my full potential. The distractions and things I had going on off the field, I wasn't able to give my best and put my best foot forward and take advantage of the opportunity that I did have like I once did before," Hosley said. "Now I'm four years in, more focused. I'm mature. Understanding what it takes to really be successful in this game. You have to grow up, you have to take coaching and you have to be able to deal with the off the field stuff and be able to handle the lifestyle.
"I'm not a big fan of the lifestyle. I'm more in it for the love of the game. Once I separated that from my business I was able to see things more clearly. I'm in a much better place, much more confident in my craft and how I approach the game. I look at is a new year, new opportunity. I'm gonna lay it all out there."
Have the Giants improved their cornerbacks? Well, yes and no. They absolutely should be see an improvement over the corner play that they had to finish the season. But personnel wise, the Giants really haven't made any upgrades over 2014.
Going into camp the Giants' corners should be -- much -- healthier. But the biggest improvements should have more to do with schematic changes than personnel. All of the Giants' corners are physical guys, who are at their best when they can be in tight man coverage. DRC had this to say about the changes in the defense:
"I know Spags' mentality. He want you to get your hands on people," Rodgers-Cromartie said. "So I had to bulk up a little bit, you know what I mean ... That's the Spags mentality. Every chance you get, in seems in every defense you have an opportunity to [use] press [coverage], he wants you up to press.
"There is definitely going to be a lot more press."
"His whole concept and the things that he allows us to do...I feel great with," Rodgers-Cromartie said. "I would say this defense ... some of the things they do here are things that are a whole lot more conducive things that really plays to our corners that we have skill sets."
So while the Giants might not have upgraded their personnel much, health and Spags' scheme should make for some better play by the Giants' corners.