There is quite a bit of concern regarding the New York Giants secondary heading into their 2018 training camp. Most of that concern is for the cornerback position, and we’ll save that concern for another day, but there is some for the safety position as well.
That position also happens to be home to one of the Giants very best players.
Great safety play can be transformative for a defense, allowing the other players on the field to play faster and the defensive coordinator to truly open up his playbook and call games aggressively.
So without further ado, let’s take a look at the Giants’ safety position heading in to
Landon Collins - Over the past two seasons, Collins has established himself as one of the Giants’ best players and one of the league’s premier defenders. Despite playing much of last season with a high ankle sprain, Collins was still a top-flight safety, and has paced his position in defensive stops since coming in to the league while also ranking second in passes defensed.
Earlier in the offseason, Collins noted that James Bettcher's scheme is similar enough to what Kirby art called at Alabama that it felt like "home." In that system, he was one of the very best defenders in the nation. It will be interesting, and hopefully exciting, to see how Collins plays in Bettcher's defense, and in a contract year.
Darian Thompson - Thompson was the Giants' third-round pick in 2016. After losing most of his rookie season to injury, Thompson failed to live up to the hype playing nearly every defensive snap in 2017. Thompson was plagued early in the season by poor tackling, but that seemed to improve some as the season wore on. Thompson does show impressive play recognition and processing speed, but a tendency toward overly-aggressive angles can get him in trouble.
Thompson appeared to be edged out in the battle for the free safety job through the off-season program by former cornerback Curtis Riley. However, at 6-foot-2 and 215 pounds Thompson might never have been in contention for the free safety spot in Bettcher’s defense, but instead for the safety/linebacker hybrid “moneybacker” position.
Andrew Adams - When Thompson went down in 2016, there was a scramble to find a safety opposite Landon Collins. The Giants’ tried a variety of options, but ultimately it was the undrafted free agent rookie out of UConn who stepped up and stabilized the position. Adams’ solid play on the back end of the Giants’ defense allowed Steve Spagnuolo to really open his playbook and establish the Giants’ as a defense to be feared.
Adams’ snap count diminished significantly with the return of Thompson in 2017, but he remains a very reliable player. Adams could prove to be a starting candidate at free safety, or valuable depth behind Collins.
Curtis Riley - A New York native, hailing from White Plains, Riley was one of a number of cornerbacks signed by the Giants in the winter and spring of 2018. He has surprised, however, by converting to safety and making a name for himself throughout the spring.
Now, Riley could be the Giants’ starting free safety as the team heads into training camp. While the coaches cautioned not to read in to off-season depth charts, that Riley has not only been running with the first team but has been impressive throughout the spring has to be considered.
Likewise, the Giants had decided to transition cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie to free safety before releasing him outright. It seems that the cornerback-turned-safety is a skill set they want for their defense. Perhaps for a role similar to how Bettcher used Tyrann Mathieu in Arizona.
Michael Thomas - Another in the bevy of free agent defensive backs signed by the Giants this past off-season, Thomas stands out. First and foremost, he stands out for his special teams acumen, topping Pro Football Focus, metrics for special teams play in each of the past three years — it wouldn’t be stretch to say that Thomas is to special teams what Damon Harrison is to run defense.
He has also been a contributor on defense for the Miami Dolphins, his previous team. He lost snaps last season but is still regarded as a solid defender. Considering how many DB-heavy sub packages Bettcher calls, Thomas might be a busy man come September.
Orion Stewart - Stewart went undrafted out of Baylor following the 2017 NFL Draft, bouncing between practice squads on the Denver Broncos, Buffalo Bills, and Washington Redskins. He has intriguing size and measurables, not to mention a penchant for creating turnovers at Baylor. An impressive camp and preseason might earn him a spot on the final roster, but it seems more likely that he will land on the Giants’ practice squad, at least to start.
Sean Chandler - The Giants signed Chandler as an undrafted free agent out of Rutgers after the 2018 NFL Draft. He was regarded as one of the jewels of this year’s undrafted free agency, and an underrated player.
He might be edged out by the numbers game, but his experience as both a corner and safety, ability to play the run and cover in a limited area are intriguing. It wouldn’t be surprising to see the former four-year starter eke out a role on the Giants’ defense.