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20.09.2018

Giants’ free safety battle won’t be only big Pat Shurmur decision.

DETROIT — Every day, in every way, Pat Shurmur and the Giants are thinking about what their team will look like. Today, tomorrow and all the way until Sept. 9, when they finally play a game that counts. Between now and then, when the Giants take the field at MetLife Stadium to open up the...
Time: 14:22     Date: 17.08.2018
Last US Sport News: Giants’ free safety battle won’t be only big Pat Shurmur decision. NY Post 24 - US News

Between now and then, when the Giants take the field at MetLife Stadium to open up the Shurmur coaching era against the Jaguars, the 90-man roster will be shaped and reshaped, tweaked and changed, analyzed and reanalyzed. The 53-man roster must be finalized a week before the Giants start their season, and of course, there are many players assured of spots. Not all the decisions are difficult to make. The last few spots are where the true roster battles are, and that is what the fringe and bubble players are competing for during practice and in the preseason games.

“Personnel is a daily, constant conversation,” Shurmur said. “We’re always kind of in our mind thinking, we ask the question frequently during training camp, ‘If we had to play tomorrow, who are our guys?’ But you put it in pencil and we’re allowed to change our minds because guys either perform better or worse than we thought as we go through the preseason, and then you pick it based on that.”

Who makes the cut and who does not is one aspect of the ever-churning personnel stream, as to where the players on the roster fit on the field. There are starting spots up for grabs. Not a whole bunch of them, but enough to keep things interesting as the summer moves on.

Curtis Riley did not play in the preseason-opening loss to the Browns. He is listed on the depth chart as the starting free safety, which is quite an ascent for a free-agent newcomer with 11 games (no starts) of NFL experience the past two years with the Titans. Undrafted out of Fresno State, Riley is a converted cornerback, and he showed enough in the spring and early in training camp to vault ahead of Darian Thompson, who has not helped his cause with a hamstring issue that has him sidelined.

“I just have to keep doing things consistently, doing everything that I’m doing right now,” said Riley, who was dealing with a hamstring issue and was set to make his Giants preseason debut Friday night against the Lions inside Ford Field. “Have to make sure I’m making all the right calls. Can’t go out there having any of these technical errors and stuff like that. Just have to be consistent, that’s the main thing.”

Filling the void at free safety is a major consideration for a defense that is an unknown, with a new coordinator (James Bettcher), a new scheme (a 3-4 front) and potential new starters in rookie defensive tackle B.J. Hill, veteran linebacker Alec Ogletree and veteran free-agent signing Kareem Martin. Plenty of playing time is also expected for other newcomers, such as veteran linebacker Connor Barwin and rookie linebacker Lorenzo Carter.

The key in the defensive backfield is for Landon Collins at strong safety to build trust and comfort with whoever is alongside him at free safety, which has been a revolving door the past three years, with the Giants unable to find a permanent running mate for Collins.

“Me and Landon, we’re building a relationship because we’re the ones out there right now,” Riley said. “We’re trying to build a chemistry together so I know what he’s doing, I know how he sees things, he knows how I see things. We’re trying to make sure we’re on the same page with everything.”

What to do with Riley and the free safety spot is only one decision for Shurmur and his staff. They need to locate a capable nickel back, as the No. 3 corner is a vital position. Former Steelers veteran William Gay is in the mix, as are Donte Deayon, B.W. Webb and maybe undrafted rookie Grant Haley, a former teammate of Saquon Barkley’s at Penn State.

What already seems predetermined is Shurmur will keep three quarterbacks. Behind Eli Manning, the Giants will stick with Davis Webb, and they did not select Kyle Lauletta in the fourth round of the NFL draft to part ways with him now. Lauletta has certainly shown enough to be an intriguing prospect down the road.

“Well, we want to keep the best 53 guys,” Shurmur said. “[General manager] Dave [Gettleman] teases me that I’m a body collector. I like having lots of players around, and certainly I think the quarterback position is important, and they’re hard to develop, so if you’ve got a guy worthy of being on the 53, we’ll keep him. If for some reason there’s a player in another position that’s more valuable at that time, then you keep two.”

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