Merely days after placing two more cornerbacks on IR, the Giants went out and signed a free agent to give the team some much needed depth. Four corners were brought to practice for a tryout, including former Eagles corner Lito Sheppard, and the Giants settled on former Vikings, Jaguars and, most recently, Falcons corner, Brian Williams.
I am definitely a fan of this move. As I mentioned in an earlier post, I strongly believe the Giants needed to sign a corner with experience to have any semblance of depth in the secondary this season.
Last season with the Falcons, Williams was the nickel corner, and, from talking to Falcons fans, did a real nice job for a team that went 13-3 in the regular season. He was injured for their only playoff game, and several fans believe that was part of the reason the Packers were able to torch them through the air. (So I guess that can be seen as good news and bad news. Good news that he had a true impact on a 13-3 team as their nickel corner, but bad news that the guy has had injury problems when he is coming in to fortify a position because of our injury problems.) While he filled the role nicely in Atlanta last season, I am not sure Fewell is planning on naming Williams as the nickel corner this year. I still believe Fewell favors the three-safety set he implemented last season, and will likely allow Grant to fill that role again. This doesn’t mean Williams role is going to be limited to “security blanket.” All good teams need six good defensive backs, and Williams will be the sixth man in this unit. Think of him in the same role Aaron Ross played last season.
Speaking of Aaron Ross, I think he has a good chance of stepping up this season. Back in 2007 he made a major impact for the team. During the week 3 comeback against the Redskins, one of the key changes to the defense was the insertion of Ross into the starting lineup. He had a stellar season that year, and continued his success in 2008 when he and Corey Webster formed one of the best corner duos in the NFL. The following season he was hurt and Thomas took his spot. Thomas played terrific, and, due to problems at safety, when Ross was healthy he was forced to play out of position. He was healthy all of last season, but was buried on the depth chart, and struggled when assigned to cover the slot receiver.
I think there are two players you can compare Ross to. First is Osi Umenyiora. He was injured in 2008, and healthy in 2009, but failed to make his usual impact. In 2010 he returned to form, and many people believed it was because he needed a full season to recover. If that is true, then 2010 was Ross’ season to recover. The second player is Corey Webster. Webster was a talented corner who lost his confidence early on in his career. He had a stellar game against the Bucs in the playoffs in 2007 and has completely turned it around. Forcing Ross to play out of position in 2009 and, to an extent, in 2010 could have hurt his confidence. With the coaching staff granting Ross’ wish to stay on the outside receiver, he has seemed way more confident this camp. Hopefully that confidence will help with the turnaround. (Yes, by this point it is fairly obvious that by compare, I meant make excuses for. Still I think there is enough reason to believe that either one, or some combination of both of those was the reason he has kind of fallen off a bit from his first two seasons.) He got off to a nice start against the Bears this past Monday, and hopefully he can continue to build on that
Side note: as horrible as this is, this might be the perfect situation for Ross. Both Thomas and Ross are in contract years. Before the injury, there was no way Ross would be kept over Thomas. Now, if Ross has a stellar year, the Giants might have a hard time deciding which one to keep. Webster is still costing a lot against the cap, so I have my doubts the front office will be able to keep them both. Personally, I hope they bring Thomas back over Ross because I believe Thomas has turned into one of the leaders on this team, but that doesn’t change the fact that this is an amazing opportunity for Ross.
So, with this signing, and possibly another pick-up after roster cuts, the Giants should have enough talent at corner to make a playoff push, especially if Prince Amukamara comes back and plays well this season.