Antrel Rolle ready to serve as nickel corner this time, if needed

ALBANY, N.Y. – Last year, when the Giants’ defensive coaches needed to replace Terrell Thomas, they had Antrel Rolle playing down low instead of at a natural safety spot. Rolle found it difficult to accept and at one point even talked about wanting out of the organization.

Eventually, Rolle came to accept and embrace his job as a nickel cornerback. The rest is Super Bowl history.

Well, the Giants and Rolle are right back in the same spot now that Thomas, whom secondary coach Peter Giunta said was ticketed to play the nickel corner spot, is likely lost for the season again. Rolle is the easiest, quickest solution to the problem right now.

So must the process of getting him to come around commence once again?

“That’s a good question because … two days ago, I went up to him and had a conversation with him and said, ‘Antrel, we’re going to put you down in the slot just like your position last year. Not saying it’s going to be permanent but we need you to get some reps there.’ He said, ‘No problem, Coach,’” safeties coach David Merritt told reporters today. “And of course, after the Terrell Thomas situation, I went back to him again and said, ‘Okay, Antrel, you need to think of yourself as a starter at that position,’ and he said, ‘Whatever it takes.’”

Obviously, seeing the results of buying into being a nickel cornerback – which allows much fewer chances to intercept a pass or deliver a big hit than safety – has helped Rolle realize the greater good.

“No question,” Merritt said. “That’s the one thing we did last year. All of the guys started trusting and believing the guy that’s next to them. And when they started to understand and believe the guy that’s next to them is going to be where he’s supposed to be, the guys started playing well, they started playing faster.”

Make no mistake here, the Giants want Rolle to play the nickel spot as little as Rolle does. Putting him down low means they’d have to bring another safety onto the field to fill his spot at the top of the secondary. That player was Deon Grant last year, but he remains unsigned as of now.

So the hope is one of the veteran candidates (Giunta mentioned Antwaun Molden or Dante Hughes by name for that spot) or perhaps rookie Jayron Hosley can step up and win the nickel job, allowing the team to keep Rolle deep.

All of this, of course, is assuming Prince Amukamara plays well on the outside.

“He did a great job the other day in his 1-on-1s and he’s making progress and doing a great job,” Giunta said of Amukamara. “He did get all the meeting time and all of that (while sidelined this spring), so he understands the defense. Now, it’s just a matter of getting the techniques down, getting the calls and playing with each other.

“He flashes the talent. There’s no issues with the foot, no issues with the back. That’s what was holding him back, not lack of confidence, not lack of knowing what to do. It was just lack of being physically fit and able to do it. Now, he’s in football shape and ready to play.”

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