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.