Several Giants defensive backs have been vocal about their ambition to be the league’s best secondary. When the Giants defense takes the field Monday night, they know victory may rest on their ability to reach that aspiration.
Through a combination of players returning through injury like Stevie Brown and key free agent additions such as Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, Walter Thurmond and Quintin Demps, the Giants boast a secondary with the talent and depth to stack up on paper with any group in the league. The Lions, an explosive passing attack that have added weapons themselves over the offseason, provide a fitting and tough first challenge for a Giants defense that will need to be one of the best in the league to return New York to postseason play.
Antrel Rolle, the group’s elder statesman, is relishing the challenge and is well aware of the greater threat the Lions will pose.
“I only love to go up against the best,” admitted Rolle. “Clearly they have one of the best receivers, if not the best receiver, in the league on that side of the ball in Calvin Johnson. In addition they have Golden Tate, he’s an extreme playmaker, returns punts and also is good for the quarterback. They have multiple weapons. They drafted [Eric Ebron], we all know what he can do. They have Reggie Bush and they have Matt throwing the ball so those guys are going to go out there and be productive but it’s our game plan to go out there and make sure that they’re not so productive.”
Last year Rolle was one of the few players on the Giants who rose above the team’s struggling situation to have one of the finest seasons of his career. With the experience of a 0-6 start still fresh in his mind that many of these new additions don’t have, Rolle knows a fast start is important to avoid the trap the team fell into last year.
“[Getting off to a fast start] means everything, especially with the season that we had last year, we got off to a horrible start,” noted Rolle. “We just want to make sure we’re not repeat offenders. Go out there and get off to a great start and just play hard-nosed football.”
The Giants missing out on the postseason last year, combined with a struggling and still-developing offense in the preseason has many questioning New York’s playoff credentials. It’s the type of talk that is giving Rolle, and Tom Coughlin, a chip on their shoulders.
“I think Coach has a chip on his shoulder as well as we do,” Rolle said. “I’m sure last season was definitely bitter for him, as it should have been. It’s our job as players to go out there and make sure that he doesn’t feel that way. We’ve got to go out there and make sure that we don’t feel like we’ve been letting him down as players. It works hand-in-hand, and together I think we make a great unit.”
If the Giants to relieve Coughlin of that bitterness, it starts this Monday. Perhaps more specifically, it starts with Rolle and his defensive compatriots slowing down a dangerous Lions passing attack.