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While Draft Class of '09 shines, Class of '11 makes quieter strides

WHO STARTS AT CORNERBACK? Terrell Thomas and Prince

WHO STARTS AT CORNERBACK?
Terrell Thomas and Prince Amukamara (pictured) have both made it clear they expect to win the starting job opposite Corey Webster. Both are coming off injuries (Thomas missed all of 2011 with an ACL; Amukamara most of his rookie season with a broken bone in his foot) and have something to prove.
Credit: Jim McIsaac

One of the off-handed remarks that Jerry Reese made last night when talking about the sudden emergence of two players he drafted nearly four years ago was that he didn’t recall what he was thinking when he picked them.

“I can’t even remember ’09,” Reese said. “I can’t even remember who we picked last year.”

Well, he has good reason for that last part. The top two picks from the 2011 draft were supposed to be steals, talented players the Giants could not believe fell to them. Prince Amukamara in the first round. Marvin Austin the second round. The Giants considered both of them among the top 15 players in the entire draft.

Well, through injuries, neither has made much of a contribution. But last night was a bit of a christening for them, too, not just Ramses Barden and Andre Brown. Their wait might not have been as long, but it still required patience.

Amukamara, who missed most of 2011 recovering from a broken bone in his foot and then the first two games this season with a high ankle sprain, made his 2012 debut against the Panthers. He didn’t start, but he played quite a bit and came on the field in nickel situation. He played 43 defensive snaps, about three quarters of the total snaps on defense.

“It’s definitely reassuring that I can play through some pain,” Amukamara said. “I’m happy about that.”

Amukamara was credited with one tackle and had one pass defensed. He was also hit with a flag for a personal foul after a shove against a Panthers receiver. That, though, might help him with his image as a soft player. Even he was able to joke about that after the game.

Teammates noticed a difference, too. Antrel Rolle, speaking on SiriusXM NFL Radio this morning, said he noticed there was “more dog” in Amukamara’s game.

“I thought I played pretty good,” Amukamara said. “Technique-wise I don’t think I played well at all. Me and my coaches are going to talk about that tomorrow and learn from it. But I’m happy that our defense held this great offense to seven points.”

While Amukamara was making his season debut, Austin, the defensive tackle, was making his NFL debut after spending his rookie season on IR with a torn pectoral muscle.

“It felt awesome, man, when Coach Nunn came to the sideline and said ‘Your time is now!’” Austin said of having his number called in the first half. Austin played 17 defensive snaps, most of them in the fourth quarter but a few when the game was still in play.

“It was like something came over me, like, ‘Wow, I can really go out there,’” said Austin, who was in uniform against the Bucs on Sunday but did not get on the field. “I just wanted to go out there and show that I’m ready and willing to play in this league and do whatever this team needs.

“Man, I’m an NFL player now,” Austin said with a huge smile and exhale. “It’s exciting, man. It’s only the beginning.”
 

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