It really doesn’t matter today whether the Giants or the Jets are the best team in New York. Their preseason game on Monday night, a 17-3 Jets win, has little significance in the big picture. However, which team reigns supreme when they meet again on Christmas Eve will be vastly important.
By then it will be Game 15 for the Giants, and they will be deep into-at least as it stands right now on paper-one of the most treacherous stretches seen by any team in football. The seeming difficulty of the Giants’ schedule in the second half of the season increases the urgency for them to get off to a strong start.
Logic says the Giants must be at least 5-3 to conclude the first half if they are going to make the playoffs. A critical component to that necessity is safety Antrel Rolle. His value to the team’s success has increased exponentially over the past several weeks, resulting from myriad serious injuries to the Giants’ defensive backfield.
The most prominent, all incurred by cornerbacks, are a season-ending torn ACL sustained by Terrell Thomas, a broken foot that will sideline No. 1 draft pick Prince Amukamara for several more weeks and a ruptured Achilles by Bruce Johnson that has ended his season.
“It’s extremely important,” Rolle said of his increased responsibility to be a high impact player. “We have a lot going on, a lot of guys playing several positions, trying to learn things on the run…It is a midstream adjustment. As a veteran, I have to take it upon myself to help our defense.”
The 28-year-old Rolle is beginning his seventh season in the NFL and second season with the Giants. They signed him to a five-year, $37 million free agent contract in March 2010, at the time making Rolle the highest paid safety in history. Rolle’s versatility-he began his career as a cornerback-enables the Giants to utilize him at multiple spots in the secondary to compensate for the losses.
With only one more preseason game remaining before the Sept. 11 regular season opener, Rolle maintains the Giants’ revamped secondary has much room for improvement. “We have a long ways to go,” he said after the loss to the Jets. “We’re making strides, and that’s the most important thing.
“We understand where we have to be and where we’re trying to get to.”