Cover Up

The Giants defensive backfield was one of the critical areas that needed to be addressed in the offseason. They made Aaron Ross their first-round pick and there are three other new members of the secondary. Was it enough?

We don't know at this point, because in fairness it will take a while for the new players to get acclimated. While they may be set up well for the future, the short term outlook is not too good.

Defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo wants to run an aggressive, attacking defense similar to the Eagles defense on which he coached. The problem he has here is that he doesn't have corners like Sheldon Brown and Lito Sheppard and he doesn't have a safety like Brian Dawkins. Those guys are a huge difference from whom the Giants trot out there in the secondary. If the front seven is attacking, that leaves the corners exposed. Ideally, they need to use press coverage and stay with their man for a short period while hopefully, the rushers get to the QB. We don't think Sam Madison and R.W. McQuarters can press the receivers well enough for the defensive scheme to work. This is why it is so important for Aaron Ross and Corey Webster to step up. They need to fill the role of Brown and Sheppard. Without a superior pass rush, the secondary will struggle again.

At corner, McQuarters and Madison, when he returns to full health, will presumably be the starters. That's not good. They need Ross and Webster to assume the starting spots and play well. No one knows how long it will take to transition to a starting tandem of Ross and Webster, but they clearly are the future at corner.

McQuarters has a couple of roles to play and one is the nickel corner. He can be very useful in that role. In fact, he has done well in the past covering the slot receiver. When he runs into trouble is when he is out on the "island." Throughout his career he has been a significant role player. We would expect him to continue to be a valuable contributor, just not as a starting corner. Another role he performs well is punt returner. The good thing about him is he catches the ball. That's a very important role. So if you can't have a home-run hitter as a punt returner like Devin Hester of the Bears, the next best thing is to have a return man with reliable hands. McQuarters is certainly that.

Madison is still nursing a hamstring injury. While he returned to practice last week, his status for opening night was still uncertain. He had the same injury last season. Make no mistake, at one time Madison was a great corner for the Dolphins. Sadly, time has eroded his skills and he can no longer play up to his previous level. Right now, at 33, he is a liability. He can still get by – barely – with veteran guile and technique, but his great coverage days are long gone.

Aaron Ross is the hope for the future. No one knows how a player will progress from college to the pro game, but Ross shows that he has the tools to make it. We know it's asking a lot for a rookie to come in and play at a high level quickly, but they really need him to do so. Even if they have to live through some growing pains, we think he needs to be force-fed. In the preseason he made some mistakes in coverage, but we could also see a kid who doesn't mind hitting. We like that he is a confident player even for a rookie. Some try to get by with false bravado, but he looks like the real deal – so far anyway.

Corey Webster needs to show that he was worthy of the second-round pick they invested in him in 2005. So far he hasn't. It's been a storyline of nagging injuries and inconsistency. He needs to rewrite his story and he needs to do it quickly. With Madison ailing, the starting job is his for the taking. He needs to seize the opportunity and keep it permanently. He has the tools to do it. It's a matter of applying his skills and making them work.

Kevin Dockery benefited greatly by injuries to Gerrick McPhearson and E.J. Underwood. That allowed him to make the 53-man roster. Last year we saw him at his best and worst. He was terrific in the game at Dallas, but he could not maintain that same presence throughout the season. Now he has a full year of experience under his belt and that should help him. In some ways he reminds us of the departed Frank Walker. He will make one great play and follow it with a couple lousy plays.

Dovonte Edwards was a late waiver claim from the Vikings a day after the 53-man roster was established. In 2005, Edwards make the Vikes as an undrafted free agent and he had a very good year. They really had high hopes for him. Unfortunately he missed all of last season with an injury. We always worry when a team releases a player, but in this case, we are optimistic. This could work out well, but we will have to wait and see.

We are not at all comfortable with the safeties. We have some doubts about the starters and there is no experienced depth behind the starters. They will miss Will Demps' veteran presence.

Remember how excited everyone was after Gibril Wilson's rookie season? He showed hitting ability. So much so that we wondered if his rather slight frame could withstand it. He showed playmaking ability. The ball seemed to find him or he was almost always in the right place at the right time. What happened to that player? We haven't seen much of him since.

James Butler inherits the starting strong safety spot. Will Demps was having a solid camp before he dislocated his elbow and went on Injured Reserve, which ended his year. Butler does some things well. He has the ability to be a playmaker. He will hit as well. We are worried that if either Wilson or Butler gets hurt that there are two rookies in line behind them. One is a seventh-round pick and the other an undrafted free agent.

Michael Johnson has some long-term skills that if developed could make him a player. In college he showed that he's a solid tackler and hitter. He needs work in coverage.

Craig Dahl beat the odds and made the squad. We had him as one of our highest-rated players who was not drafted so we liked the signing initially. But to be honest, no one is more shocked to see him make the team than we were. We thought he did a poor job in the preseason games although he had a nice interception in the finale. Obviously the Giants see something in him that we didn't. Hopefully they are right.

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