By Tom Canavan
AP Sports Writer
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — The New York Giants must think they have a shot at ending their four-year playoff drought.
After bolstering their league-worst defense with the free agent signings of end Olivier Vernon, tackle Damon “Snacks” Harrison, linebacker Keenan Robinson and cornerback Janoris Jenkins and the re-signing of end Jason Pierre-Paul, the Giants dug into their pockets again on Thursday and signed unrestricted free agent cornerback Leon Hall.
The signing of Hall a week after players reported to training camp gives new coach Ben McAdoo a veteran who knows how to play in the slot in passing situations.
That was one of the big question marks in the revamped defense, while adding depth to the secondary.
“He is a versatile guy,” defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo said Thursday. “He is an experienced vet and I think he can bring some things to the package, so we can do some multiple things that maybe we didn’t have a chance to do until this point.”
The Giants have come into camp debating whether to use either Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, rookie Eli Apple or journeyman Trevin Wade in the slot, a position that combines coverage ability with a run-stopping capability.
Hall did that in his nine seasons with the Cincinnati Bengals, and was good at it.
The Giants now have to get him ready. He had back surgery after last season. He worked out for the Giants on Wednesday, flew home to Cincinnati and returned to sign his new contract. He watched practice from the sideline on Thursday.
“Talent is definitely there,” Hall said of the defense. “I know that they expect better and I think that they will be better. This is the first practice I’ve seen and they looked pretty good and I know the talent is there.”
Hall needs to learn the defense, the new terminology and to get used to playing with new teammates.
Spagnuolo said that will take a little time. While Hall can play both inside and outside, he envisions that Hall will play inside.
“It’s bitter-sweet,” Hall said of leaving Cincinnati. “It was a tough decision to make. Obviously, my family is back there, so that’s number one. Like I said, I felt comfortable here and I felt good about where this team is going. I like Coach McAdoo and really what he’s been doing since he got here. Like I said, I just went off my gut instincts and I feel comfortable here.”
Spagnuolo joked that with all the new additions, he is now under pressure.
“We are piecing it together,” he said. “The more talent you can get with really good coaching, the better chance you have of doing good.”
The defense was not good last season, finishing 32nd in the league. It failed to hold six games either late in the fourth quarter or in overtime.
Linebacker Jonathan Casillas felt the defense let former coach Tom Coughlin down in a second consecutive 6-10 season that led to a coaching change.
“It’s tough to swallow when you wear that number on your back, No. 32,” Casillas said. “Like I said we are all grown men, responsible and hungry human beings and we want to do better, and we will do better.”
A first-round draft pick of Cincinnati in 2007, Hall played all nine of his seasons with the Bengals, starting 109 of 125 games, including the playoffs. He had two interceptions last season, giving him 26 in his career. The Michigan product had 470 tackles, three interceptions returned for touchdowns, 112 passes defensed, five forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries.
To make roster space, the Giants waived cornerback Tramain Jacobs, who had three special teams tackles in five games last season.