Work in progress

For all the new and improved talent on New York's defense this year, one thing can't be overlooked: How well and how quickly the starting 11 will be able to come together and work as a cohesive unit. Offensively, the Giants return the same 11 starters. However, on the other side of the ball, there could be as many as six new starters from last year's defense.

"I don't think it's going to take long at all," cornerback Sam Madison said. "It's all about jelling. A guy like LaVar's already here working hard right away every day. I think it really comes down to attitude."

    Madison admits that it's going to take some time, but that when the real bullets start flying he and his new mates will be ready to answer the bell.

    "I think we'll be fine come the start of the season," he said. "We have a bunch of new guys in the secondary. But the other guys here already know the defense and have helped the new guys transition into what we need to know. And the new guys are learning together so we're all on the same page."

    The secondary is the unit with the most makeover, as Madison takes over for Will Allen and, with Will Peterson not expected back with a bad back, Corey Webster has the edge over free agent signee R.W. McQuarters to start opposite Madison.

    Madison is a 10-year vet and his experience has already paid dividends.

    "I'm a guy that really likes to get involved with younger guys and show them little things here and there," he said.

    Antonio Pierce, who returns at middle linebacker, has certainly noticed.

    "He's already had such an impact on our younger players," Pierce said. "That's big to have a guy with that much experience."

    Gibril Wilson is the secondary's only holdover at strong safety, with Will Demps having been signed from Baltimore to take over for Brent Alexander at free safety. Demps also acknowledges that New York's ‘D' is a work in progress.

    "I think it's going to have to progress slowly because we're still learning the system and the verbiage that Tim Lewis wants," he said. "Until we can do it physically, it can't really happen. It's going to take some time but I think it's going to come on fast.

    "I think we'll be fine for opening day. The first preseason game or two there are going to be some mistakes, but we'll be fine."

    The biggest addition to the defense, no doubt, was the signing of three-time Pro Bowler LaVar Arrington.

    "It helps to know people," Arrington said of his new digs. "I think it's gone pretty smoothly. The whole feeling out process has gone well."

    Arrington is actually playing on the strong side of the Giants defense, unlike the weak side, as many had projected. The reasons? To have him play closer to the line of scrimmage as much as possible and also to allow him to take advantage of double teams on Michael Strahan whenever the Giants shift into a 3-4 defensive alignment. Whatever the reason, Arrington is champing at the bit.

    "Coach Lewis says he wants me closer to the ball," Arrington explained. "Closer to the ball means I'm closer to the quarterback. Closer to the quarterback hopefully equates to the quarterback going down. I will be coming forward. That's the plan, for me to be disruptive.

    "This is as excited as I've ever been coming into a new situation."

    Pierce, who will man the middle in between Arrington and whoever emerges from a weakside LB training camp battle between Carlos Emmons and Brandon Short, is plenty excited as well.

    "It's the way we set up our defense," he said. "With a guy like LaVar, you want him as close to the line of scrimmage as possible. Let him just go and attack. We don't need him dropping back into coverage. It's a good position for him. Just his presence alone is going to make it a lot easier for Strahan and Osi (Umenyiora)."

    Short is just happy to return for his second go-round in New York.

    "I'm glad to be back," he said. "I would have liked to stay the first time but unfortunately the NFL is a business. Whether I start or not, I see myself playing a big role in the success of this defense."

    And whether he's the fifth or sixth new starter on defense, he's confident the group will come together quickly and be humming like a finely-oiled machine by September.

    "In the NFL there is a lot of turnover," Short stated. "Every year almost every team has to deal with it. By the time training camp comes around, that's the time guys can come together.

    "There's no reason to believe that we're not going to be rolling by the team the season starts. There's no reason to believe we won't be ready for opening day and firing on all cylinders."

    Pierce stressed the importance of New York's offseason workout program.

    "We're already learning how to play together," he said. "We're in the film room together. That's what this offseason is all about – guys getting on the same page.

    "I really don't think it's going to be a problem. It's not guys that haven't been in the league. They all have experience. With four years, Will Demps has the least (amount of) experience."

    Not surprisingly, the confident Arrington thinks Giants fans can expect big things from their defense this season.

    "The personnel we have is going to allow us to do so many different things," he said. "This defense can be as good as it wants to. We have all the tools. We'll meet expectations and hopefully exceed them."

    TGI's projected defensive depth chart


    Michael Strahan

    Justin Tuck


    Damane Duckett

    Jonas Seawright

    Barry Cofield


    William Joseph

    Fred Robbins


    Osi Umenyiora

    Mathias Kiwanuka


    Brandon Short

    Carlos Emmons

    Gerris Wilkinson


    Antonio Pierce

    Chase Blackburn


    LaVar Arrington

    Reggie Torbor


    Sam Madison

    Jason Bell


    Corey Webster

    R.W McQuarters


    Gibril Wilson

    James Butler


    Will Demps

    Charlie Peprah

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