The word Giants coaches have been using to describe the difference in second-year safety Andrew Adams this spring has been a peculiar one.
Just about every player makes a jump in his level of understanding from year one to year two, and Adams rocketed from an undrafted rookie who didn’t even make the team out of training camp to a starter in 13 regular-season games.
“I just think the confidence and the communication part of things [has improved],” coach Ben McAdoo said of Adams last week. “He has gone through it a year, so that helps. He has had some success.”
Even Adams subscribes to that thinking. And that word.
“When you go from one year to the other you get a lot more confidence,” he said. “You kind of know what to expect. You’re playing faster than the speed of the game and last year as a rookie you were trying to play catch-up. Now you are on top of things and the game slows down and you can see things much faster.
“Confidence,” he added, “is definitely a big plus.”
So why is it so odd to use that word?
Because of the way the 2016 season ended for him. And the lack of confidence the Giants had.
In the wild-card game against the Packers at Lambeau Field, the coaches decided to start veteran Leon Hall at safety opposite All-Pro Landon Collins. Hall, a career cornerback who spent the previous nine seasons with the Bengals, had never started a game at safety in his career until that playoff game.
Adams wound up playing just nine defensive snaps in the 38-13 season-ending loss Jan. 8.
“It was a disappointment, but I just embraced my role and did what the team asked me to do,” Adams said of that game.
This season, they might ask him to start again. He’s been handling that role for most of the workouts because Darian Thompson is returning from foot surgery and missed minicamp due to an illness. Safeties coach Dave Merritt said he’d like there to be a competition between Thompson, the player the Giants penciled in as their starter last year as a rookie, and Adams, the player who eventually took that job as a rookie.
“I can’t sit here and take away from what Andrew Adams has done,” Merritt said when asked if Thompson will return as the starter. “I think they’re all competing for a starting job. That second safety has been illusive for us, to have two guys that can actually step in there and actually hold down the positions.”
That might be lip service. Despite Merritt’s declaration of a position battle, if Thompson is healthy he likely will win the job. That’s the way many are thinking, at least. Defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo has been raving about Thompson since he showed up for rookie minicamp last spring.
“He has always been a very cerebral player,” Spagnuolo said this week. “He looked like the lights were not too big for him and that impressed me right from the beginning.”
Even Collins seems to think he’ll be paired with Thompson this season.
“I know he is going to be on the field with me,” Collins said. “I think we are going to get together this offseason and just kind of workout together at the same time. So he is going to get that work in and [we’ll] just try to be that best tandem safety back there.”
Adams, though, still has a fighting chance. Especially if Thompson can’t rebound from his foot surgery and, as Collins said, “stay away from being injury prone.”
“We all get a lot of reps,” Adams said softly of the jostling for practice snaps throughout the offseason program. “When I’m in I try to make the most of my reps to prove that I’m an undrafted guy that deserves to be here, that can play this game and can play this position at a high level. That’s how I treat every day, like I’m an undrafted guy and I have to make the team.”
Adams provided some stability last season. It was a learning process on a steep slope jumping from Connecticut to the NFL.
He finished with one interception, five passes defended and 46 combined tackles. He played the second-most snaps among the team’s safeties, trailing only Collins.
Those are the things he is focusing on. The positives. Not the pine at Lambeau.
“I played a lot of snaps so I’m coming back and just picking up where I left off,” Adams said of his growth. “The biggest thing is I have confidence in myself.”
Even if, for the biggest game of the season, after a year of proving himself, the Giants didn’t have it in him.
ROOKIE REPORT CARD
Andrew Adams, Safety
Combined tackles: 46