EAST RUTHERFORD - When the New York Giants have to cut their roster to 53 a week from Sunday, one of the toughest decisions will involve the cornerbacks.
Prince Amukamara is set as a starter. Narrowing down the other four or five will not be easy.
Veteran Corey Webster, who took a big pay cut to return, has battled groin and knee injuries and has only played in one preseason game. It seems unlikely he will suit up against the Jets on Saturday.
Aaron Ross, who re-signed with the Giants after a year in Jacksonville, has looked good, along with second-year pro Jayron Hosley.
Terrell Thomas has surprised a lot of people making his comeback from two ACL surgeries, and some of the young free agents have shown flashes.
These are good problems to have for coach Tom Coughlin, especially happening after the secondary was ranked 28th last season. New York allowed 60 receptions of 20 or more yards (the NFL's fourth-highest), 29 passes of at least 30 yards (first) and 13 passes of 40 or more yards (second).
"I feel it's a challenge every day," quarterback Eli Manning said. "It's good for our receivers to go against a good group of guys, guys who are different. Some are speed guys, some are bigger and more physical, so you are getting a lot of different looks."
The most compelling story is Thomas. Once considered on the verge of Pro Bowl status, he missed the last two seasons. The 28-year-old is scheduled to play in his first game since the 2011 preseason this weekend.
"I'm just excited to pack my bag, to be honest with you," Thomas said Thursday. "I haven't done that in a long time, to pick out what cleats I'm gonna put in there and see my jersey back on the shoulder pads before the game. It's a long time coming. There's a lot of people who've been rooting for me."
Thomas, who started training camp on the physically unable to perform list, has been practicing since Aug. 6. He said he is not worried about his right knee, which was first hurt in college.
"I have to go out there and perform. I haven't made the team yet," said Thomas, the Giants' leading tackler in 2009 and 2010.
"It's the first time I have been in this position, to have to make the team. It's exciting. It's actually driven me to keep pushing, to work through practice and keep showing the coaches, the GM, the owner, that I can still play football."
Webster, who has been a starter since the end of the 2007 season, has much to prove after a disappointing 2012. A groin injury and a mild MCL sprain has not helped.
"I am still taking all the mental reps and I am still working hard," Webster said. "I am still locked and loaded and still on the field, coaching, helping going through the mental reps."
Webster said the one thing that has improved this year has been the communication among the defensive backs, which has eliminated missed assignments and mental errors.
"That's why you are not seeing so many crazy things on the field," he said.
There appears to be room, as well, for Ross, who was released by the Jaguars, and Hosley, a 2012 third-round draft pick. Despite a football folly where he turned an interception into a Colts touchdown this past weekend, Ross has been on top of his game and has been starting with Webster out.
Hosley has been picking off passes in practice seemingly every day and had another vs. the Colts.
"I am not patting myself on the back," he said. "There are still things to be done."
Hosley had an up-and-down rookie season, but he looks much more comfortable this summer.
"I didn't expect to come in and be the greatest player," he said. "It takes time and work and effort and focus and growing. I have grown as a player."
The free agents also have played well. Charles James, a rookie out of Charleston Southern, started off really well, but Laron Scott, a second-year player out of Georgia Southern might be the most consistent young corner. Six-year veteran Trumaine McBride also has pushed for a job.
"We push each other," Hosley said. "Some days it's tough and you need someone to push you. It's about competing."
FB Henry Hynoski was taken off the physically unable to perform list but did not practice. He had knee surgery in late May. ... S Antrel Rolle (ankle) took part in individual drills for the first time since spraining his right ankle last week. ... WR Victor Cruz (heel), WR Ramses Barden (knee), WR Louis Murphy (leg), C David Baas (knee), LG David Diehl (thumb) and DE Damontre Moore (shoulder) did not practice. DE Adrian Tracy (dehydration) returned to practice after missing a day.