Giants 3 free agent prizes ready to get down to work
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. >> Free-agent prizes Olivier Vernon, Janoris Jenkins, and Damon Harrison are ready to get down to the business of rebuilding the Giants' defense.
Reflecting on their comments Thursday after they officially signed their monstrous free-agent contracts, Jenkins has more work ahead than the others in justifying the $204.25 million combined outlay general manager Jerry Reese made for them.
The former Rams cornerback described his best quality as his ability to create turnovers in man-to-man coverage. But it was his brutally honest depiction of his greatest weakness that might have brought a small gasp from Reese, whose five-year, $62.5 million offer kicked off his Day 1 spending spree.
"I can say to myself, 'Improve on stop being lazy at the end of games,' " Jenkins said.
Jenkins then explained that his focus occasionally wandered as the clock ran down. It is a tendancy he can ill-afford as he and fellow cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie work to improve a secondary whose late-game performance cost the Giants five fourth-quarter leads in 2015.
"Instead of just relaxing, thinking about the ball not coming to my side, you know, and focusing more on the game. It's just a mind thing. It's easy to control. Playing on this level, some things are going to happen.
"You've just got to improve, man."
Vernon, now the highest-paid defensive lineman in the league with a five-year, $85.5 million deal that includes $52 million of guaranteed money, said he was excited about forming a rejuvenated pass rush with linemates Jason Pierre-Paul, Jonathan Hankins, and Harrison. The defensive end who had 7 1/2 sacks last year knew full well that the Giants' 23 sacks ranked dead last in 2015.
"Last year wasn't what was expected to be," he said. "That's not the Giants' standard. That's not the Giants' way.
"From what I remember, they've always been stout."
Pierre-Paul, along with former Giants safety Antrel Rolle, was actually one of the people who persuaded Vernon to sign with the Giants.
"I could just tell how he spoke," Vernon said of Pierre-Paul, " he's a man trying to get (back to relevance). I'm trying to be a part of that."
While Vernon hones his pass rush and Jenkins tightens his focus, the 350-pound Harrison said he expects to form an impenetrable middle against the run with the 320-pound Hankins. Taken as a unit, the pair represents 670 pounds of space-eating ability.
"We just have to do our jobs to the best of our abilities, and complement and work off each other," Harrison said. "It'll be fun with me and Big Hank in the middle."
As for leaving the Jets' 3-4 alignment, where he played directly over the center, for the Giants' 4-3, the defensive tackle anticipated a flawless transition.
"The 3-4 and the 4-3 are actually similar, except for the outside linebackers," Harrison said. "You play the exact same positions. It's just the defensive ends are in, and you have linebackers."
The free-agent trio is tasked with pulling the Giants' defense out of the rankings cellar, and no one understood that Thursday better than Harrison after he signed his five-year, $46.5 million contract.
"They invested a lot in me, and I know they're expecting a lot out of me," he said. "That alone is motivation to help the franchise get back."
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