Darian Thompson impressed the New York Giants almost from the moment the third-round pick from Boise State stepped onto the practice field last season. Unfortunately, a foot injury cut his season short after just two games.
Can Thompson reclaim his starting job, and regain the form that had the Giants drooling over the idea of pairing him with Landon Collins at the back of the Giants’ defense? Let’s discuss that as we continue our player-by-player profiles of the Giants’ 90-man roster.
2016 Season In Review
Thompson had left an impression on the Giants coaching staff before training camp even began last season.
Defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo:
" ... he is assertive, he is vocal, he is not afraid to make a mistake. I think the first thing that you need to do at that position when we ask you to make calls is not to be afraid of making a mistake and to be vocal. If he continues to do that, he will learn the defense. He is smart enough.”
Head coach Ben McAdoo:
"DT is a guy who looks like he is comfortable in his skin, he can communicate well and we know he has good ball skills. That showed up in his stat line and on his film study and he is making the most of his opportunities."
Unfortunately, injuries handed those opportunities to first Nat Berhe and then Andrew Adams. Thompson missed time in preseason with a shoulder injury, then sat out the final 14 games with a foot injury.
2017 Season Outlook
If he is healthy and if he can get back to the level of play he had displayed before injuring his foot Thompson can be a huge asset to the Giants’ defense. Here is safety coach Dave Merritt speaking this spring about the potential of a Thompson-Landon Collins pairing:
“I think they can be dynamic, I really do. Darian is a very cerebral guy. He is very smart and he understands the calls as well as Landon. To have two smart guys back there and to be able to feed off of one another, it’s going to be a good mixture between Darian, Andrew and Landon of course,” Merritt said. “Darian is a very smart guy and that’s what we knew about him coming out of college. He had the mental capacity to learn Spags’ defense and do things we’re asking him to do. It’ll be pretty exciting for sure.”
How healthy Thompson is remains an open question.
Thompson worked on a limited basis throughout the spring, looking fine and appearing to take on more work as OTAs progressed. McAdoo said the Giants were “being smart there, easing him back into it.”
Thompson, though, missed all of mandatory mini-camp. McAdoo said that both Thompson and cornerback Eli Apple, who missed the last few OTA workouts with a hamstring, were suffering from illnesses. Neither player made so much as an appearance outdoors during mini-camp. Honestly, it seemed odd.
Defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo would certainly like to have Thompson. When he spoke to the media during mini-camp, though, Spagnuolo sounded cautious:
“Well, he is coming over that injury and that is a tough one to get through. He has always been a very cerebral player and I might have mentioned this before – if I go back to last year, he came in early and surfaced as the starter, got hurt in training camp, didn’t play in the last preseason game, but was healthy to play in the Dallas game. He wasn’t starting at that point, but I remember watching him function on the sideline and as a rookie from Boise State in his first NFL game down in Dallas and I think it was a Sunday night game or at least in the afternoon and he looked like the lights were not too big for him and that impressed me right from the beginning,” Spagnuolo said. “You guys would know better than I would – I think he played in Dallas and the next game he got hurt. I think it was only two games, so we didn’t get to see any more of that. But I think that he is a really good football player.”
ESPN reported back in April that Thompson was “expected back at full strength this season.” Thompson himself told ESPN at the time that there was “no soreness” in his surgically-repaired foot and “things are looking up.”
We will find out exactly how healthy he is once training camp begins on July 28. If he is indeed good to go that would be exciting news for the Giants’ defense.