There have been five practices at Giants training camp, and Darian Thompson so far has been shut out. It’s starting to get on his nerves.
“It’s sticking with me a little bit,” the rookie safety said of his lack of interceptions. “I’m due.”
He probably is. The Giants drafted him because they liked his intelligence and his knack for getting to the football. He had a school-record 19 picks in his career at Boise State plus another three forced fumbles, and in the spring he showed that propensity by scooping up fumbles and grabbing passes.
Camp, though, has been different.
Thompson said it’s been a while since he’s had this kind of a practice drought.
“I haven’t had very many opportunities,” he said.
The one time he did, Odell Beckham Jr. got in the way. In Sunday’s practice Thompson was lined up to intercept a pass by Eli Manning on a deep route but instead of attacking the ball he waited for it to come to him. That allowed Beckham to leap through the air, make the catch then continue on for a touchdown.
“I’m still kicking myself about that,” Thompson said. “The ball is in the air I have to go get it. That’s a play I should have made and I’m capable of making. Odell obviously is a top-notch receiver and he’s going to make those plays if you give him a chance to. I just have to go get the ball in the air… The next time an opportunity presents itself, I’ll be ready to go.”
It’s one of the big differences between college, where Thompson said that pass would typically be intercepted, and the NFL. And one of the hard lessons the Giants want their third-round pick to learn on the practice field instead of in regular-season games.
Thompson spent the spring as the starter at free safety and has held that job thus far in training camp. About the only person not excited by what Thompson is showing seems to be Thompson himself.
“It’s still early in training camp,” he said of his position atop the depth chart. Wherever the coaches tell me to play, I’ll go play.”
Everyone else has been impressed by how well Thompson has grasped the defense and the confidence with which he makes the calls.
“You can’t be a shy guy, you have to be able to speak and speak clearly,” veteran middle linebacker Jasper Brinkley said. “He’s not a shy guy. He’s a vocal guy back there. It’s a great feeling, man, it’s a great feeling.”
“He’s very smart,” cornerbacks coach Tim Walton said of the rookie safety who must communicate the coverages to the corners. “He’s a guy who is a leader, understands the defense, is picking stuff up well, and is very dedicated. He has a great understanding of what we’re trying to do so we’re really pleased with what he’s bringing to the table.”
Thompson hasn’t nailed down the starting job yet. That will come, if it does, through the preseason games when he makes the calls and checks in rapid-fire game-speed succession. But the Giants press down pretty hard on the paper when they pencil him in there.
“I just have to give the coaches what they’re looking for,” Thompson said. “Go out there and be a football player, an intelligent football player . . . It’s been going well. Still learning, still progressing each day. That’s my main goal, is to get a little bit better each day. I’m starting to get used to the guys I’m playing around, which is a big deal. I’m just excited for the season, excited to keep progressing through training camp.”
And next time he gets a chance, come away with an interception.