Terrell Thomas’ Injury Pushes Giants Down the NFC East Food Chain

Terrell Thomas' knee hates him. Image courtesy of newsday.com

New York Giants cornerback Terrell Thomas tore his ACL Monday night against the Bears and will miss the 2011 season. That you already knew. The major question that now lingers, though, is whether or not this is an injury that has the potential to turn the NFC East upside down this year.

Thomas is a special cornerback. I don’t think he’s an elite cover guy or a corner who can ever be tasked with taking out the opposing team’s No. 1 receiver on a game-by-game basis, but the man makes plays. He boasts back-to-back five-interception seasons and forced five fumbles in that same span of time. Additionally, on a team that doesn’t have one elite corner but rather a pack of good ones, Thomas’ absence is bound to cause a major ripple effect that tests the Giants’ depth and ability to switch things around.

The NFC East might be able to lay claim to being the best division in football when it comes to wide receivers (and overall, for that matter). With the likes of DeSean Jackson, Jeremy Maclin, Steve Smith, Hakeem Nicks, Mario Manningham, Dez Bryant, Miles Austin, Santana Moss and Anthony Armstrong patrolling the outside spots, the quality and the quantity of receivers are both abundant in the Beast. With those top-notch receivers, the continued evolution of the NFL passing game and the lack of corners in the NFL in comparison to the amount of solid wideouts, cornerback remains one of the positions that teams hate losing someone to injury the most.

With Thomas gone, Aaron Ross likely steps in to a starting role opposite Corey Webster. That’s not a bad duo, actually. The scary part is who comes after them. Prince Amukamara, the team’s first-round pick out of Nebraska, is also injured and will continue to be injured for a while. I know that the Giants tend to play a lot of three-safety packages in the nickel, especially with strong safety Kenny Phillips back from injury, but only being able to count on two good cornerbacks is a genuine cause for concern. Webster and Ross can’t reasonably be expected to shoulder the load all season. Who steps in?

The Giants gave up 25.67 points per game last season in NFC East play, and that included 514 yards, five touchdowns and only one interception by Jon Kitna. Jon. Friggin. Kitna. With a better quarterback, who knows what the Cowboys will be able to do to the Giants?

 Quite frankly, this injury is petrifying to the Giants. It has to be. Honestly, I think that particular injury, coupled with the lack of depth behind Thomas and Ross at corner, pushes the Giants down to the third-best team in the NFC East. No, Dallas isn’t great at corner either, with both Orlando Scandrick and Mike Jenkins regressing a year ago, but it just may still be in better position than New York. Additionally, I think Rob Ryan will help the defense improve significantly. Thomas is far from being the only problem New York has on defense, too. Osi Umenyiora is hurt. The defensive tackles don’t instill fear into anyone. The linebacking corps is underwhelming, at best, right now. I’m an Eagles fan. I know what an underwhelming linebacking corps looks like. No one’s sure what Kenny Phillips will be like this year, either. I’ll take a wait-and-see approach before writing the Giants’ 2011 obituary (grumble grumble Super Bowl run taught me to do that grumble grumble), but as of right now, it’s difficult to see them having the defensive firepower to keep up with Philly and Dallas.

22 Comments

  1. DerfDiggy says:

    It’s not just Matt.

    And no, I wouldn’t argue that at all…Eagles are the favorite, but I’d never write off the Giants even through all the injuries. Its just seems to me that the majority believe its a two horse race, and maybe that’s due to the audience here at BTB moreso than overall sentiment.

    Boys had a down year, silver shades would say it’s not the norm, and they’ll be back to a competitive, playoff teams, fans of other teams would say it’s an indication of things to come. A season of football will tell the story…skins are…well rebuilding….but by no means are they the historically bad Bengals or Lions…even if they’re prone to lose to them, lol.

    Its just strange…especially considering how closely contested most nfc east games are.

  2. DerfDiggy says:

    You guys writing about how the giants can overcome these injuries by downgrading the cowboys are…. Delusional. You’ve completed conceded the division to the Eagles in the same breath. Obviously the Cowboys have some issues, but to write them off is kind of bewildering. I think the entire fanbase of he NFC East will be surprised at the end of the season. Redskins have been a major afterthought as well. That’s fandom I guess, find the silver lining.

    1. I don’t think Matt is writing off the Cowboys or Giants, but it’s clear he thinks the Eagles are the best team, and maybe even takes for granted that the audience agrees with him on that… but would you argue?

      As for the Skins, I know I’m personally guilty of writing them off in 2011, although I liked what they did this offseason. Who knows? The Dolphins went from 1-15 to division winners. Crazy stuff happens.

  3. […] As new BtB writer Matt Chandik wrote yesterday, if you don’t have corners in the NFC East, you’re in deep doo doo.  Naturally, post injury, you begin to comb the available free agency options.  Kelvin Hayden, […]

  4. giants fan says:

    This is silly. Yes, our defense has been decimated by injuries. Losing TT hurts more than I can describe (especially given how many season ending injuries we’ve suffered in our defensive backfield) however the only player you could reasonably make this kind of claim with is Eli.

    1) Giants Defense is in its second year under Fewell. His defense is predicated on rushing the passer, creating turnovers and confusing opposing quarterbacks. It is a very effective defense but it is also very complex, so you can expect to see the entire team step up in this regard. On the other hand, the Cowboys are moving into their first season with Rob Ryan’s defense and have not looked particularly sharp or apt to stop the pass or the run in preseason. I know it’s preseason but I think you have to consider growing pains when talking about how a team will play in the regular season.

    2) Teams are about to make roster cuts. There are plenty of talented defensive backs who will get cut simply because the numbers don’t work out in their favor. The Giants should be able to find a serviceable cornerback or two to hold the fort down until Amukamara gets better and integrated into the system. TT isn’t even that great of a cover corner but like Jimmy said the guy makes plays and he knows the defense.

    3) Your point about John Kitna is well taken, but it’s not as if the cowboys offense slowed down under Kitna last year. With Romo at the helm the team scored 25.5 points per game (against the likes of the Redskins, the Texans, the Bears, the Titans and the Vikings). With Kitna at the helm, the team scored 25.7 points per game (against the Jaguars, Packers, Giants, Lions, Saints, Colts, Eagles, Skins, Cardinals and Eagles again). FTR, I’m not counting the first Giants game because both quarterbacks played in that game. A lot of people in Dallas were clamoring for Kitna to play OVER Romo because he performed so well in the offense. I wouldn’t go that far, I think Romo is a good quarterback, but don’t make Kitna out to be a complete scrub – the guy was more than serviceable last year (89 Passer rating, 65.7%).

    4) The Cowboys were 6-10 last year and that was with a throwaway game that Philly handed them in week 17. I don’t think those kinds of problems are fixed in a single offseason or through a single coaching change. The boys haven’t even gone through a full season with Jason Garrett and have to contend with the lockout stopping their new coaching staff from getting valuable reps in with them, the Giants have the benefit of continuity on both sides of the ball here which has to give them an advantage.

    5) Despite what you say, I think the DT position is a strength for the Giants this year. Yes, we lost Cofield but I think his numbers were inflated because Canty took up double teams all year for him. With Canty gone, Joseph should take the double teams to allow Canty to rush the passer. I think Canty is a much more talented player than Cofield and his sack numbers this year should prove that. I think we have one of the best defenders in the game (Tuck) coming of the left side and a kid who looks hungry, ready and able to produce on the right. When Osi comes back from his knee surgery (I’m thinking in week 2 or 3) we’ll have a 3 headed monster with linemen rotating in different positions. Barring any injuries, this will be a fearsome pass rush all season and that will help to negate the injuries we’ve had in the defensive backfield.

    6) I think you’re selling our linebackers short. Kiwi is playing a Joker role all season and he looked great in that roll last season (I think he had 4 sacks in two games) before suffering a season ending injury. Back and healthy, I think he’s ready to reck havoc from that position. Jonathan Goff and Michael Boley might not be superstars, but they’re more than serviceable, especially against the run which is our first priority.

    Do I think we’ll suffer? Yes but I don’t think there are any quarterbacks in the NFC East who have the skill set to make us suffer each time we play them. I don’t think Vick or Romo are as good out of the pocket as Brees, Brady, Manning and Rodgers and it’s those kinds of quarterbacks, who can read blitzes and find open receivers quickly that will really be able to pick apart a team that has a weak defensive backfield. I know you’ll probably disagree about Vick, and that’s fine but I think we can both agree Romo is not that guy, which is the point of this tirade anyways.

    Sorry for the rambling, it’s 5 AM and I can’t sleep.

    1. Matt Chandik says:

      Most of your reply is opinion-based, so I won’t really try to talk you out of it. However, your point about Vick is a little weird considering what he did to the Giants last year. I mean, 664 total yards, five total touchdowns, one interception and two wins would make me pretty wary of a guy.

      1. giants fan says:

        That’s fair enough. I don’t think Vick will keep up that level of play next season but again that’s opinion based.

  5. brisulph says:

    nail in the coffin etc

    1. Kyle says:

      Brian, how many nails in the coffin is that now for the Giants?

      1. brisulph says:

        Not too sure, but the lid has to be firmly in place by this point.

  6. cwel87 says:

    Rob Ryan: not a reason to think Dallas will improve.

    The Giants were pretty damned good in the face of ridiculous turnover numbers last season. I think that has to regress back to some levels of normalcy – and that will help keep the Giants in the playoff hunt.

    I guess Jason Garrett and his 4(+1)-3 mark to close to season doesn’t impress me as much as it does others. We shall see.

    1. In addition to leading the league in turning the ball over, the Giants also led the league is creating turnovers, so maybe regression to the mean applies for both, and they cancel each other out?

      1. cwel87 says:

        That’s certainly possible – although if they do, we’re still looking at a 10-6(9-7?) team against a Cowboys squad I don’t see being any better than 8-8.

        1. fiftyfourd says:

          Dont forget that they have 4 games against the NFC west, so their record will probably be better than most expect. I’m guessing on 9-7 season, possibly better if they get a win against the giants or philly. I’m probably wrong though.

  7. TransplantedFan says:

    You think the NFCE is also the best division in terms of quarterbacking? Vick, Eli and Romo are all pretty good (though it pains me to admit that about the latter two). I can’t really think of another division that has that many great qb’s. The NFCW is awful. The NFCN isn’t much better. The NFCS is pretty good though I think “Matty Ice” is terribly overrated. AFCW, AFCE, AFCS, and AFCN all seem the same way. One maybe two good qb’s, but not 3 that you could legit say are top 15 and could argue top 10.

    1. Matt Chandik says:

      Yeah, probably. I like Matt Ryan a lot, but I’m not a big Josh Freeman guy. I think he was the benefactor of a weak schedule.

  8. BigBlueIntervention says:

    I think what’s going to be tested the most now, is the pass rush. They need to be the superstars that they have the potential to be to help out the secondary.

    1. TransplantedFan says:

      Speaking of that pass rush, Marvin Austin has a torn pectoral muscle and needs surgery. So… DT not looking so good.

      1. Matt Chandik says:

        Marvin Austin isn’t a good player to start with, either. The guy was very overrated in college and only garnered attention because of his high school rankings. On a loaded defensive line, he managed four sacks and only two non-sack tackles for loss. For a guy who’s supposed to a freak pass-rusher from the interior, that’s not jaw-dropping. Couple that with the fact that he missed a year for being an idiot and I really don’t see him having much of an impact.

        1. TransplantedFan says:

          I think all things being equal, I’d rather have my 2nd round pick healthy than not.

          1. Matt Chandik says:

            Sure, but I just don’t see him having a big impact when he is healthy. Overdrafted.

            1. cwel87 says:

              The overdraft due to inflated high school rankings shall henceforth be known as the Ernie Sims Syndrome.

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