Charles James sat at his locker, fielding question, after question, after question.
The second-year corner gave his opinion on new teammate Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, the changes from a year ago and his expectations for 2014. Then, a voice chirped in from a few feet away.
“You’ve gotten a lot better at this from last year,” running back David Wilson said, laughing.
James flashed his signature smile and let out a chuckle before continuing his prognosis of the Giants. The truth is the 23-year-old’s media relations aren’t the only part of his game that has taken a step to the next level.
On the field, James has flashed throughout the Giants’ offseason program. Last year’s undrafted long shot from Charleston Southern has recorded two interceptions and impressed with blanket coverage. When his play isn’t getting him noticed, his voice is. James is one of the more vocal players on the Giants’ roster, often times seen jumping, running and yelling his way across the practice fields.
— Charles James II (@ShutDownCB1) June 17, 2014
“You’ve gotta have fun with the game, man,” James said. “It’s a serious game, but if you don’t have fun with it, I don’t think you’re living. This is a dream come true for me and I enjoy being around these guys.”
This year’s boisterous, bubbly James is a bit different than the one that showed up in East Rutherford last year as little known undersized corner from Florida.
Standing at 5-9 and weighing in at 179-pounds, James hardly fit the ideal build of an NFL corner. At his pro day, he ran a 4.49 in the 40-yard dash and was given a 6th-7th round grade by scouts. He went undrafted.
After weighing his options, he signed with the Giants. He flashed in the preseason, but was cut on the final cut-down day. He went unclaimed before the Giants signed him to their practice squad. Despite not being active, James credits the time spent practicing against the likes of Rueben Randle, Victor Cruz and Hakeem Nicks as the cause for monumental strides in his progression.
Sure, he wasn’t suiting up on game days, but he was matching up against some of the better wideouts in the league on a day-in, day-out basis.
“To be able to go up against guys like that last year, it helped slow the game down for me,” James said. “It got to the point where I could play fast.”
Prior to the Giants’ game versus the Eagles in early October, James was promoted to the active roster following a slew of injuries to the team’s secondary. He finished out the season on the active 53, seeing action in 12 games, primarily on special teams. James finished with four combined tackles.
During the offseason, the Giants wasted no time bringing in bodies to occupy the same meeting room as James. Rodgers-Cromartie is a corner, Walter Thurmond III, too. Zack Bowman has value both as a defender and on special teams. Trumaine McBride was re-signed.
And you know what? That’s perfectly fine with James.
“It’s a business, I expect them to do things like that,” James said. “The cornerback position doesn’t just stop with me. I mean, I just see it as motivation for everybody. We’re all working here to get a spot.
“I see it as nobody is safe. If you think you’re safe, you’re wrong.”
James spent the offseason working to improve better himself from a year ago. The corner called himself a “student of the game,” has dedicated himself to the film room and soaked up every bit of knowledge from the veterans on the team.
This year, he’s playing more with his instincts than thoughts. The game is no longer fast, he is. James is flashing, ball-hawking.
“You either get better, or you get worse. You never stay the same,” James said. “For me as a player, I want to continue to get better and put myself in a position to make this team and help the team win.”
So far, he’s off to a pretty good start.