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The growth of Antrel Rolle at safety

Antrel Rolle reacts in the second half of

Antrel Rolle reacts in the second half of a game against the Green Bay Packers at MetLife Stadium. (Nov. 17, 2013) Credit: Kathleen Malone-Van Dyke

Antrel Rolle was the Giants’ best defensive player in 2013. His position coach said he can still be better.

“Antrel is now starting to understand and develop as a safety,” coach Dave Merritt said on Thursday. “He was a corner as we all know, drafted out of Miami. Then all of a sudden he was a safety. He’s now starting to understand the position more than ever. Before, he didn’t see formations, he didn’t see the concepts. I’m saying when I first got him the first two or three years. And now the last two years, it’s all coming together for him and he’s feeling more comfortable.

“With Antrel’s ability to continue to learn and grow, he hasn’t, in my opinion, scratched his ability as a safety yet. Last year was a glimpse of what Antrel can actually become. Just imagine if he had started that maybe eight years before at the position.”

The problem, of course, if that Rolle is 31 years old and the clock is ticking on his career. He also has just one more season left with the Giants.

“I asked Antrel the other day, how many years do you want to play?” Merritt said. “He said ‘Coach, however long you want me to play.’ I said ‘Antrel, to be honest with you, I think you can play another four years.”

Rolle will be helped this year not only by his growth at the position, but by the Giants’ new depth at cornerback. With a strong rotation of players at the position, and the return of fellow safety Stevie Brown, Rolle will be able to focus on doing his job and not everyone else’s.

“The first couple of years we played him at nickel, we played him as bison, we played him at corner, we played him at safety,” Merritt said. “Now he’s able to just play strictly safety and it’s coming together for him.”

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