Friday, December 11, 2009

Article on Ross

Thought you might enjoy another good read, this one by's Mike Eisen on Aaron Ross, the cornerback-by-trade whose role as a safety could expand Sunday. If Michael Johnson doesn't make it because of his strained groin, Ross could start there in place of C.C. Brown.

By Michael Eisen

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – Aaron Ross makes no secret that cornerback is his favorite position on a football team. No surprise there. He played corner at the University of Texas when he won the Jim Thorpe Award as the nation’s best defensive back. Ross was the Giants’ first-round draft choice in 2007 as a corner, he won a Super Bowl and started every game he played last season there.

“I have been playing corner all of my life,” Ross said.

But he’s not now. Since returning to the field after missing the first nine games with a hamstring injury, Ross has played safety. He’s been in the nickel and dime packages and last week he tackled Marion Barber for a two-yard loss on fourth down in the final quarter, one of the biggest defensive plays in the Giants’ 31-24 victory over the Dallas Cowboys.

Ross’ role could be expanded on Sunday night, when the Giants host the Philadelphia Eagles in another critical NFC East matchup. Michael Johnson, who has started at both strong and free safety this season, today practiced on a limited basis and is listed as questionable for the game because of the groin injury he suffered at Denver two weeks ago. Johnson did not play against Dallas, the first game he missed in his three-year career.

Johnson is confident he will be in uniform for the Eagles game.

“I’m going to play,” he said. “I didn’t really feel my groin at all today.”

If Johnson is limited or suffers a relapse, Ross could get the call next to Aaron Rouse.

“Basically, we have him in a capacity where he has been with our nickel group,” Coughlin said of Ross. “And we’ll just see how that goes.”

“I am getting more snaps each week,” Ross said. “I am not sure if I am starting or not this week. Like I say all the time, whatever role they put me in, that is what I am prepared to play.”

Although Ross is an outstanding cornerback, safety is now the position where the Giants need him most. Corey Webster and Terrell Thomas are entrenched as the starting corners, and Kevin Dockery and rookie Bruce Johnson are capable reserves.

The Giants have searched for their best combination at safety since Kenny Phillips went on injured reserve after the second game. C.C. Brown started six games before he was replaced by Rouse – acquired off the waiver wire on Sept. 24 – for the San Diego game on Nov. 8. Brown returned to the starting lineup when Johnson couldn’t play last week.

“Terrell, Corey, Bruce and Dockery are doing tremendous jobs,” Ross said. “The coaches told me they needed me more at safety, so that is where I am prepared to play.”

Ross got his most extensive playing time of the season against Dallas and finished with three solo tackles.

“I am getting there,” Ross said of his comfort level at safety. “I still have some things to learn. I know the defense, but I still have technical and just small things that safeties that have been playing the game know that I might not. I have Michael Johnson, Rouse and C.C. to teach me. It’s been going pretty well.”

Ross is still getting used to what he considers the most significant difference between corner and safety.

“The biggest thing for me (is) transferring my eyes from the receivers to the quarterback,” Ross said. “I am starting to get a feel for it.”

Another issue is staying in the proper place prior to the snap.

“Just knowing my alignment - when we are in cover two, cover three, the different coverages, knowing where I am supposed to stand,” Ross said. “I know my responsibility, but I have to start learning where I am supposed to stand to disguise the defense.

“I like to just play freely. Day by day I am starting to cut the thinking out and starting to just react. At first, yes, I was doing a lot more thinking.”

Ross has impressed at least teammate who knows a little something about safety play.

“He’s good,” Johnson said. “He is getting more comfortable without having someone talking to him about it while he is out there. He is the one telling me what he should be alert to and what the checks and formations are. The way he explains it to me, I feel the same way about it.”

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