In a way, Michael Coe has been the Giants' starting cornerback since preparations for this season began.
During OTAs and in minicamp, when the more established players were nursing injuries or rehabbing from surgeries, it was Coe who was with the first group. When the Giants lined up at the start of training camp and Terrell Thomas and Prince Amukamara were being eased back into things, Coe was getting reps with the ones.
"I just went out there to compete," Coe said of the experience. "We always preach to prepare like a starter, so any time I'm out there with the ones . . . you have to put yourself in that position mentally. I tried to put myself in the best position to be with the starters when the season started."
He may have seemed to be a placeholder at the time, a guy filling in and holding down the position while the "real" starters were out. But Wednesday, when the Giants open the regular season against the Cowboys, Coe will be on the field for the first start of his six-year career.
Thomas (knee) was placed on season-ending injured reserve and Amukamara is rehabbing a high ankle sprain, so Coe is, as they say in the NFL, the next man up. The Giants believe he is up for it.
"We're not worried at all," safety Kenny Phillips said. "He probably had the best practice and the best camp out of everyone in the secondary. He's proven that he can play on this level. He's going out working hard. I'm looking forward to seeing him play."
"I'll be on the hot seat," Coe said. "You live in that kind of world playing cornerback. You know the ball is coming, so that motivates you more. A lot of guys can take plays off because they know it's not, but I know the ball is coming."
Coe struggled with his own hamstring injury for a while in training camp and returned for the third preseason game against the Bears. That was the game in which Amukamara was carted off the field. Coe had to come in and play more than he expected to in that contest, then lined up with the starters against the Patriots in the preseason finale.
"I liked the way he competed when he came in and played in the Chicago game, I liked the way he competed and fit in against the runs and did a nice job in the New England game," defensive coordinator Perry Fewell said. "We have a lot of confidence in him."
Fewell said that in addition to his physical abilities, he admires Coe's outlook.
"Michael has a very strong mentality," he said. "If he doesn't have success on a play, you can chew his [butt] out, he'll come back and he'll make a play for you. I like his mental makeup as a corner, also."
Amukamara is expected back in Week 2 against the Bucs, which probably means that Coe's tenure as a starter will end after this game against the Cowboys.
But it looked as though Coe's run would end in the offseason workouts and early in training camp, too.
Yet here he is, the starter the Giants can't seem to get rid of.