Antrel becomes big 'producer' on Giants defense

Antrel Rolle's hybrid position in the Giants defense is still too new to have an intimidating nickname just yet.

But it might only be a matter of time.

If the veteran defensive back plays like he did the past two weeks, then it won't be long before Rolle's refashioned spot earns one of those ominous monikers usually reserved for pass rushers like Jason Taylor, Charles Haley and the late Derrick Thomas.

While Thomas terrified quarterbacks as "The Falcon" in Kansas City, Haley was "The Elephant" for San Francisco and Taylor simply "Jack" -- as in jack of all trades -- with Miami.

For now, Rolle is content to be known merely as "producer" in New York.

"The nicknames will take care of themselves," Rolle said yesterday as the surging Giants prepared to take on the hapless Lions this weekend at New Meadowlands Stadium.

Rolle, a former Pro Bowl safety and cornerback for the Cardinals until Big Blue lured him away in free agency, technically was listed as a free safety the past two games.

But with new defensive coordinator Perry Fewell reacting to linebacker injuries and an abundance of talent in the secondary by using three safeties, Rolle was all over the field in successive wins over the Bears and Texans.

Last week's rout of Houston, in particular, showed what the 6-foot, 208-pound Rolle can do when he drops down to defend the run. He finished with a team-high six tackles, including five solo, as the Giants limited the Texans' top-rated rushing attack to just 24 yards in 15 carries.

As a result of that strategy shift the week of the Bears game, Big Blue go into Sunday's contest with Detroit boasting the NFL's top-rated defense, including ninth against the run.

"It's a combination of what Antrel did as a corner and a little bit as a safety, but it's also a new frontier for him," Fewell said yesterday. "We're exploiting his talent. We're taking advantage of all the little things he can do from a [cornerback] standpoint, as well as a from physical safety standpoint."

Though Rolle wasn't con sidered a big hitter in his five seasons with the Cardi nals, the added physicality of the new role didn't scare him off when Fewell first unveiled it against Chicago.

It did amuse Rolle, though.

"I didn't know I was such a big guy to stop all these running backs and offensive linemen pull ing," he said with a laugh. "I've never had to worry about being physi cal, though, and it's good thing be cause I'm giving the coaches flexibility to do what they want to do."

Poor safety play was considered one of the biggest reasons for the Giants' 2009 meltdown, which is why they loaded up on veterans at that position in Rolle and Deon Grant while hoping Kenny Phillips could make it back from left microfracture surgery.

Rolle's ability to play what amounts to a linebacker position -- and play it well -- is letting Fewell maximize the Giants' talent without having to worry about it fitting a scheme.

"We haven't given [Rolle's position] a name yet," Fewell said. "We're just trying to use him in a creative way, and he's responded."

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