When the Giants won the Super Bowl in 2008, David Tyree made the ”catch seen around the world” on his helmet to propel a game winning drive. In 2011, Victor Cruz’s 99 yard touchdown reception against the New York Jets tied an NFL record and was the start of a 6 game winning streak that culminated in a Super Bowl victory for the Giants. Last year, David Wilson’s record-setting 327 all-purpose yards with three touchdowns highlighted a bright future for the young running back.
This year, the man who looks to shock everyone is Terrell Thomas. You might be wondering who this is given his long absence, so let’s refresh our memories.
Terrell Thomas (Photo Credit: Al Bello/Getty Images North America)
Terrell Thomas was the second round draft pick of the Giants in 2008. Thomas came into the Giants with high expectations to help the Giants secondary, usually the weakness of the Giants, become a formidable force. In his senior year at USC, Thomas allowed only 29.8% of passes thrown his way to be completed and was second-team All-Pac-10 twice in his college career. In 2009, he led the Giants in tackles with 85 and was ranked 12th in the league for interceptions. While the Giants failed to qualify for the postseason due to late season collapses, Thomas’ improvements in the two year span provide promise to the secondary unit of the Giants defense.
Though he had injury problems, he recovered well in his breakout season in 2009 when he took over as the second cornerback with Aaron Ross out due to injuries. In 2010, Thomas flourished and remained consistent with five interceptions, matching his total from 2009, and totaling 101 tackles, improving from his 2009 total.
In 2011, Thomas tore his ACL and missed the entire season, which ended with the Giants winning the Super Bowl. A Super Bowl ring is sweet, but for Thomas, it was bittersweet to have earned it on the injured reserve roster. “It was bittersweet at first but looking at everything at the parade, just seeing my teammates, the happiness, the hard work paid off, man, the holes they had to overcome, just everything they overcame over the season, you know, having to win six games in a row,” Thomas said to the New York Post after the Giants won the Super Bowl. “I wanted to be there to support them, to let them know that I’m here as well.”
Thomas had his chance to show his support, but unfortunately re-injured his ACL and had to miss another season. This time, he witnessed a late season collapse, in part because of the Giants’ weak secondary unit.
This season, Thomas has a chance at redemption and a chance to step up big for a a secondary unit that was dismal to say the least towards the conclusion of last season, giving up an average of 281.5 passing yards an allowing 4,068 passing yards, which was the fifth highest in the NFL.
(Photo Credit: Al Bello/Getty Images North America)
Yet, Thomas must stay healthy. While being the Terrell Thomas of old is crucial for the Giants’ success this season, getting back on the field diligently is a must. The Giants have no choice in remaining cautious with Thomas as he shakes of any rust from not playing for two years. While a 100 percent Terrell Thomas is what the Giants need, throwing him into the shark tank at anything less can prove to be costly and they cannot afford that right now.
According to safeties coach Dave Merritt, Thomas could see time as a third safety if healthy, and for now, it’s the best thing for Thomas. By remaining healthy and remaining relevant, he provides stability to a maturing secondary offense. Prince Amukamara can have a breakout year this season and by having the experience and knowledge of Thomas, it can help Amukamara attain such a feat. Jayron Hosley and Stevie Brown are two up and coming studs that had their potential glimmer on occasion last season and with Thomas at the point, they can learn to become great defenders.
But while Thomas’ presence will go a long way, coming back from two consecutive ACL injuries to the same knee is no small feat. The recovery is brutal and if Thomas were still at USC, he would have red flag after red flag on him. Better yet, scouts would stamp a prohibition sign on his face. Luckily for Thomas, he is on the right team to mount a comeback and he has the right support system to come back in. And if Thomas remains healthy, going back to his form of play would come back naturally and all of a sudden, the Giants can potentially have a stable secondary.
Thomas’ health is what will determine the fate of the Giants secondary unit this year. Justin Tuck will lead the defensive ends, Mark Herzlich will lead the linebackers, but it will be Terrell Thomas who needs to step up as a leader for the secondary unit.
If Thomas wants to shock a lot of people, he has the talent, the right team, and the right time to do so.
2013 is shaping up to the be a shocker of a season for the New York Giants. Let’s hope for the Giants’ sake it’s a positive one, starting with Terrell Thomas.