EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) -- Last year, Rueben Randle was a second-round draft pick for the New York Giants, Stevie Brown was an unproven free agent safety and Michael Cox was a graduate student in training camp at the University of Massachusetts.
Now Randle has more of a defined role with the Giants receiving corps, capitalizing on the off-season experience he gained during the absence of starters Hakeem Nicks and Victor Cruz.
Brown, previously cut by two different NFL teams, is the strong safety after collecting a team-high eight interceptions.
Cox, the seventh-round draft pick, was the Giants' leading rusher in the preseason opener last Saturday against Pittsburgh.
The Giants are preparing for their second preseason game against Indianapolis on Sunday night at MetLife Stadium. All three realize that they have a chance to contribute against the Colts and during the season.
"I know I definitely don't want to take a step back," said Randle, who was a standout at LSU before joining the Giants last year. "I want to keep moving forward. I want to become more of a play maker."
Randle caught 19 passes for 258 yards and three touchdowns last season, starting one game and seeing action in all 16 contests. He said that he worked hard in the offseason, just in case Nicks or Cruz would not be ready. Even with both of the Giants' top receivers in camp, Randle is still doing his due diligence.
"I feel like I'm a better receiver now," Randle said. "I did a lot of work on my strength and conditioning."
Randle said that he feels so strong that he's willing to take on another role with the team.
"I'm ready to return punts if needed," Randle said. "I'm willing to do anything."
Brown was a nondescript player for both Oakland and Indianapolis in his first two NFL seasons, but flourished last year after injuries catapulted him into a starting position a month into the season. Brown, a product of Michigan, ended up with eight interceptions, second-best in the entire league, earning a new contract with the Giants. Brown could have been a restricted free agent.
With Antrelle Rolle unavailable with an ankle sprain, Brown has become the leader of the secondary. It's a complete turnaround from last training camp, when he was practically unknown.
"It's definitely different," Brown said. "I didn't have to do any interviews with this many people last year. I just got to eat lunch and go back inside. But it's definitely a little bit different. Coaches talk to you in a different way. Players talk to you in a different way.
"I'm trying to be a little more vocal. It's not about seeing if I can just make the team. It's now about this team needing things from you and expecting things from you."
Brown was asked if he was expected to repeat last year's breakout performance.
"There are always going to be questions," Brown said. "Until you become established and do it year-in and year-out, you're always going to have questions. People wonder if you're just a one-year guy. I believe that I still have to go out there and prove myself."
Brown said that he misses having Rolle alongside of him in the secondary.
"It's really crazy," Brown said. "Trell is not someone to miss practice, miss games or anything, so to not see him out there for two days in a row is definitely different. He hates it. He wants to play and practice. That's just the way he is. He wants to do everything. I told him, 'Dude, it's preseason. Relax.' But he'll be here soon enough."
Cox spent four years at Michigan (Brown's alma mater), before transferring to UMass for his final year of eligibility. Cox was a redshirt freshman at Michigan in 2008 and was granted another year by the NCAA after getting his degree. He had only 19 carries in three seasons at Michigan, but rushed 198 times for 715 yards and five TDs last fall for the Minutemen in their first year as an NCAA Division I program.
Cox had nine carries for 33 yards last Saturday against the Steelers with a long run of 12 yards.
"I guess I still have something to prove," Cox said. "I really hadn't thought about it much. I knew that if I got my chance, I'd manage to figure it out. That's how I feel now. I'm going out there and do everything I can to show my skills and make this team. Hopefully, the coaches saw something and I'll be out there again. I now have one game of experience. I do feel a little more confident, but it's only one game."