NFC East Notes: Thurmond, Eagles, Cowboys

When asked about the most impressive player he’s seen in Giants camp, ESPN’s Dan Graziano identified cornerback Walter Thurmond, saying the free-agent acquisition has been “making life miserable for slot receiver Victor Cruz in practice. Thurmond could be a difference-maker at that nickel corner position for the Giants this year.” Thurmond, 26, signed a one-year, $3MM deal in March, at which time ESPN analyst Louis Riddick, a former director of pro personnel for the Eagles, lauded the signing as a potential steal: “If he can stay healthy and out of trouble, it’s a tremendous value signing. . .He’s a dynamite press corner, who is as good with his technique as [Seattle’s] Byron Maxwell, as [Seattle’s] Richard Sherman. Walter is very good. He can play in the nickel because he’s big enough, because he can tackle, because he’s a good blitzer. And he can play on the outside. Not only can he press, he can play them all.”

The numbers back up Riddick’s assessment. Despite starting just three of 12 games played last season for the Super Bowl champion Seahawks, Thurmond tallied 24 tackles, six pass breakups, an interception (29-yard TD) and a forced fumble. Additionally, his 5.7 coverage rating was higher than teammate Brandon Browner, who signed for three years and $16.8MM in New England.

So why did the Giants land such a good player at such an affordable deal? He’s been plagued by injuries since entering the league, and was popped for a four-game suspension last season for violating the substance-abuse policy. Nevertheless, he brings supreme confidence to the Giants secondary. In April Thurmond proclaimed himself the best slot corner in the league. By July, he was drawing praise from teammates and coaches, including head man Tom Coughlin, who likes Thurmond’s attitude. Now, a week into August, he’s established himself as the ‘Quiet Assassin.”

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