In an eerily similar fashion to the New York Giants tumultuous 2011 preseason, the team has already lost multiple key contributors to the defensive backfield due to injury. With Terrell Thomas' re-aggravated ACL injury, along with Prince Amukamara's high ankle sprain, Big Blue has some serious questions to answer tonight in their final preseason bout with the New England Patriots. Not only is there no starter set in stone to take the field alongside Corey Webster next Wednesday against Dallas, but there is no defined nickel cornerback either.
Let's take a look at who defensive coordinator Perry Fewell may call upon to start come week one.
Michael Coe – The fifth-year veteran out of Alabama State has never been more than a depth-chart filler at cornerback for the duration of his career. While he can can be a contributor on special teams, Coe has never received starters minutes on defense. With that said, he has shown some great cover skills throughout the preseason. While he has trouble guarding players that are bigger than him, Coe is athletic enough to cover most receivers in this league.
After Bruce Johnson's poor performance against the Chicago Bears, Michael Coe seems to be the most likely candidate to start against Dallas. While he certainly will not be able to shut down Miles Austin or Dez Bryant, hopefully Coe can hold his own and not make any critical mistakes. That's about all we can ask for at this point.
Bruce Johnson – When Prince Amukamara was carted of the field in the Giants' third preseason game, it was Bruce Johnson who got the call to replace him as the starting cornerback. However, after getting toasted by Brandon Marshall for a 21-yard touchdown pass on just his third play, Bruce Johnson was benched in favor of Michael Coe. Although he is undersized for his position, Johnson is fast and has great closing speed on the ball. Similar to Coe, he will have trouble guarding the bigger receivers in the NFL, but there's no reason this guy can't become a serviceable player.
Justin Tryon – As we've said before on Giants 101, Justin Tryon played well in dime packages last season. He was eventually injured; however, he showed flashes of being a really good player. That said, we have not seen the same potential in him throughout this preseason. Tryon's aggressive style of play has left him open to making mistakes, which has burned the Giants on more than one occasion. With all the injuries in the secondary, Tryon is almost a lock to make the roster. However, he has not played well enough to merit starters minutes, nor has he played up to his capabilities. At this point, the Giants can not afford to put him out there in anything other than a reserve role, or as a special teams player.
Jayron Hosley – Obviously, the Giants want Jayron Hosley to become a key contributor down the road. With that, he has shown he has the potential to become a great cornerback in this league. However, after suffering through turf toe and in all likelihood missing the final two preseason games, the coaching staff will give him some time to get used to the NFL game. Don't look for him to contribute much early on this season.
In nickel packages, we will most likely see the Giants go with three safeties, with either Will Hill or Antrel Rolle covering the slot receiver. Bruce Johnson and Justin Tryon will also be given opportunities to showcase their abilities in that role tonight as the game wears on. Expect Perry Fewell to try several different options tonight, as the team must figure out a viable solution before the week one.
Overall, the Giants are fortunate to have three candidates to fill-in for their injured starters at cornerback. Obviously, the secondary will be weakened with either of these players in the game for significant periods of time. However, with the Giants ferocious pass rush, the team will be able to hide their deficiencies in their defensive backfield better than other squads around the league. Hopefully one of these career backups can come out and surprise us tonight against the New England Patriots.
Photo Credit: Mike Gannon
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