The news broke and slowly but surely it made its way down the grapevine. Tweeted out by the team’s official account, the New York Giants had parted ways with safety Will Hill following his third failed drug test.
The move was met by both praise and criticism. For Cooper Taylor, it was a chance.
“You see an opportunity,” Taylor said. “The NFL, it’s a competition. It’s between me and everyone else other than Antrel (Rolle) and Stevie (Brown). Everybody else is fighting for their jobs to get on this roster.”
Following Hill’s release, Taylor was the immediate beneficiary. Last year’s fifth-round pick got an immediate jump up the depth chart. After taking nearly all reps with the third team, Taylor assumed Hill’s role opposite Quintin Demps with the 2’s.
Taylor says he’s faster than he was last year, bigger too. Following the culmination of last season, coaches advised Taylor to put on muscle, wanting him to be more of a “physical presence.” After playing 2013 at 226 pounds, he’s up to 232. The Richmond alum spent the majority of the offseason in the weight room.
— Connor Hughes (@Connor_J_Hughes) June 5, 2014
At 6-4, 232-pounds, Taylor represents one of the ‘bigger’ safeties in the NFL, drawing comparisons to Seattle Seahawks big man Kam Chancellor. In his mind, Taylor believes his height give him an advantage guarding some of the league’s top tight ends.
“I’m not one of the smaller guys, I’m taller,” Taylor said. “I’m able to jump a little bit better with the guys that are 6-6, 6-7, those tight end guys that are running down the field.
“Being a little bit taller, bigger, than the normal size safety lets me be the type of defensive back to get matched up with those guys regularly.”
Hill’s release isn’t the first time Taylor has been given an opportunity because of an absence. Last year, Stevie Brown was lost for the season following an ACL tear, but Taylor was unable to capitalize after dealing with his own injury issues.
Taylor tweaked his hamstring early on and was hampered by the injury throughout the year, never capitalizing on his potential. The safety never showed what he could do on the field, partially because he was very rarely on it.
When asked about the difference for Taylor between year two from year one, defensive captain Antrel Rolle said bluntly, “Cooper didn’t play much last year.”
“I think being healthy is just the key especially at this level,” Taylor said. “If you’re playing out there hurt it’s hard to compete. It’s definitely something being healthy, and understanding the playbook, has helped out.”
The Giants hope Taylor can fill the role Hill once occupied. He has the size to match up with tight ends down the field, while also representing a physical presence in the box. If New York elects to go with a three-safety package, Taylor could be extremely useful in a Deon Grant-type position.
“He’s a much bigger human being right now,” coach Tom Coughlin said. “He’s worked hard in the offseason. He’s stronger, he’s bigger and he’s in his second go-around. He has an excellent opportunity to contribute in a lot of ways.”