Sans Sehorn, DBs better than ever

Will Peterson and Will Allen lead a very deep, strong group of cornerbacks, while both starting safeties - Shaun Williams and Omar Stoutmire - return from last season.

No one was surprised - or for the most part sorry - when New York opted to release Jason Sehorn. He had his moments, both positive and negative, in the Big Apple. But the Giants felt they were set at cornerback with the Wills, had plenty of candidates for the nickel spot and didn't want to experiment by moving Sehorn to safety, a position he'll now play for the Rams. Will Peterson and Will Allen lead a very deep, strong group of cornerbacks, while both starting safeties - Shaun Williams and Omar Stoutmire - return from last season. New York finished ninth in the NFL in pass defense, surrendering less than 200 aerial yards per contest. They plan to improve on that this season.

How high can the Wills fly?

The Giants have about as good a tandem at corner as they've potentially ever had. Will Peterson and Will Allen can run, jump, hit and cover with the best of them. And they have the confident/cocky attitude practically required to be an NFL cornerback. Sources around the league state the Giants are the envy of most NFL defensive coordinators. Sure there are better corners around, but with how much they've shown in such a short period of time, you can't help but be excited about their potential.

Most will tell you that Peterson is a half-step ahead of Allen at this point, but Peterson also was affected by multiple injuries last year that cost him four games while Allen was able to start all but one contest. Their friendly rivalry only serves to make them better. Entering their third year in the league, it's likely time that the Wills start to receive national attention for their solid, sometimes flashy play. They're that good, and only getting better.

Is secondary safe enough?

Shaun Williams has evolved into one of the game's better safeties, but he hasn't reached the superstar status New York had hoped for when they spent a first-round pick on him in 1998. He showed signs during Big Blue's Super Bowl run, nearly decapitating Jacksonville's Jimmy Smith along the way. And last season, he notched a career-high 108 stops and turned in perhaps the season's biggest play - an overtime interception in the season finale that set New York up for a playoff-clinching victory over the Eagles. Both Williams and the coaching staff are hoping he can continue to improve this season, and turn in more of the highlight film hits and INTs everyone loves to see.

Omar Stoutmire was re-signed to play defensive quarterback, something he did very well last year. Following most games, Stoutmire would grade out among New York's highest defenders. In his first season as a Giants starter, he compiled 99 tackles. He's the least publicized member of New York's secondary, but Big Blue could do a whole lot worse at free safety, and they know it.

In Johnnie Harris, New York has a former starter in reserve and in Clarence LeBlanc a potential future star. LeBlanc was having a tremendous training camp last season when he was injured and lost for the season during the exhibition slate. When Defensive Coordinator Johnny Lynn goes to sleep at night, you can rest assured he's not worried about his safety situation.

A nickel or dime for your thoughts?

Lynn's also probably not worried about the talent of his nickel and dime corners; just perhaps who they will turn out to be. The Giants are stocked at reserve CB with Ralph Brown and Kato Serwanga leading the way. Those two expect to wage a fierce camp battle for the coveted third spot. Brown has more experience as a Giant and fared very well when he did play last season, but Serwanga is a favorite of the coaching staff. Fourth-round pick Rod Babers and off-season signee Ray Green also factor into the mix. Oh, and did we mention that the Giants selected athletic corner Frank Walker out of Tuskegee in the sixth round?

Cornerback will be one of the hot camp positions to watch. After the Wills there should be intense competition for the rest of the spots. Our early guess has Serwanga as the nickel, Brown the dime and Babers as insurance.

BREAKOUT BOX

Strength of Unit: The starting quartet may not be in the league's top 5 but it's certainly among the 10 best. Great combination of size, speed and hitting ability.

Weakness of Unit: Interceptions. Everyone wants more INTs. New York had only 11 last season, with no player picking off more than two passes. Key additions: The signing of Ray Green and drafting of Rod Babers gives the Giants excellent depth at corner.

Key losses: Jason Sehorn. You either loved him or hated him, but he definitely made his mark through the years.

Darkhorse: Frank Walker has a long way to go up the depth chart, but he has the ability to make a difference.

On the hotseat: As good as both Shaun Williams and Omar Stoutmire were last season, Johnnie Harris would love to steal a little playing time here and there.

KEY STATS

Much Improved. The Giants secondary improved from 21st in the NFL in pass defense in 2001 to ninth in 2002.

Steady, Steady. Big Blue notched 16 INTs in 2001, but only 11 last year. Will Allen was the biggest culprit, dropping from four picks to one. The team's total pass breakups also dropped from 85 to 69.

Filling The Void. Jason Sehorn takes his 23 career interceptions with him to St. Louis, including four post-season thefts.


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