Darian Thompson set to have a breakout 2017
While people may be sleeping on the second-year pro, Darian Thompson is set to enjoy a great sophomore year.
Last year, the Giants went from being a bottom-feeding team, to being the NFC’s fifth-seeded playoff team. That transformation was thanks largely in part to a defensive overhaul, which saw Landon Collins emerge as one of the NFL’s premiere safeties.
Collins became the poster-boy for the Giants’ defensive renaissance. The ex-Alabama safety netted Pro-Bowl and first-team All-Pro honors.
But while Collins’ surge onto the scene was tremendously beneficial for the team, it also made people forget about one of the other talented safeties occupying New York’s safety room. In 2017, expect big, big things from Darian Thompson.
Thompson entered his first year as another young safety in a group bustling with young safeties. Thompson impressed coaches enough in the preseason to earn the starting safety spot opposite Collins.
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When Thompson went down with his season-ending injury, the Giants defense took a bigger hit than many people may have thought. And as good as New York was defensively in 2016, Thompson’s presence would’ve made the unit that much better. Un-drafted rookie Andrew Adams filled in admirably for Thompson. But Thompson’s athletic ability and natural instincts make him hard to replace.
As ESPN’s Jordan Ranaan mentioned in his initial report of Thompson’s season being over, the Giants had hopes their young safety would help transform the defense.
The good news is that Thompson appears to be progressing well. According to 247 Sports, Thompson was was “very close” to making a full recovery from his injury as of March, 19.
Unfortunately, since Thompson’s rookie year was cut short, there isn’t too much film on the former Boise State standout. In the limited playing time, though, Thompson was impressive.
During his four years at Boise State, Thompson hauled in 19 total interceptions. That number is good for the most all-time in Boise State history. He has the center-field skill-set that will perfectly complement Collins’ abilities, which is why the Giants took him in the third round.
Perhaps the best way to describe the way Thompson plays is with one word: Smooth. He glides around the field, patrolling the back-end, and the way he does it appears effortlessly.
He adds speed to the defense, and even when he makes a mistake, he’s able to recover quickly.
Thompson has a natural, innate ability to locate the ball when it’s in the air. He has a nose for the football, and it often leads to him tracking down passes in mid-air and collecting interceptions.
The really unfortunate thing about Thompson’s forgotten rookie year is the fact that we never got to see what he and Collins can really do. It took Collins a few games to truly find his comfort zone.
While he may not be tremendously consistent as a tackler, when he does hit guys, he makes sure he leaves a mark. Because of his tendency to light guys up, Thompson has the ability to jar the ball loose.
If I were a wide receiver, I wouldn’t want to go up against the hard-hitting duo of Collins and Thompson.
Having Thompson back also gives Steve Spagnuolo a lot more creativity when calling the defensive plays. The Giants would theoretically be able to effectively run some three-safety packages.
Over the past two seasons, the Giants have had a second-year pro blossom into a true difference-maker. In 2015, Weston Richburg took the step from an out-of-place center playing guard, to one of the NFC’s best centers. The following year, Collins was New York’s sophomore player who took a giant step forward.
While some people expect Sterling Shepard to make the leap, the chances of it being DT are much higher. Shepard’s literally losing catches now that Brandon Marshall is on the team. Provided he’s healthy, Thompson will reclaim the free safety spot.
What to Expect
If you’re looking for a former Giant to compare Thompson’s skill-set to, I’d go with peak Stevie Brown.
While Thompson certainly seems like the better all-around player, his knack for creating turnovers is incredibly reminiscent of Brown. Although Brown was never able to replicate his absolutely insanely productive 2012, fans likely remember his play-making ability. During that fabled season, Brown hauled in eight interceptions, and also forced two fumbles.
Like Brown, Thompson’s natural feel for the field allows him to be in opportune spots for interceptions. Giants fans should be tremendously excited to see Thompson operate alongside Collins.
Talk Giants with Ryan on Twitter: @DisdierSports