Leading into the July 27 opening of Giants training camp, The Post will analyze 11 position groups based on personnel, strengths, weaknesses and key depth chart battles. Today’s look-in: Cornerbacks.
This was a big problem in 2020, as the lack of a capable and consistent starter opposite James Bradberry caused season-long headaches for defensive coordinator Patrick Graham. You can cover up weaknesses only so long before they bubble to the surface. Graham was unable to play as much man coverage as he prefers to use because he did not trust enough of his players at this spot, and Graham also could not utilize pressure up front as often as he wanted to because he was wary of how long his corners could hold up back there.
This group offers promise but there are really no sure things other than Bradberry, so plenty has to go right at this spot.
James Bradberry, Adoree’ Jackson, Darnay Holmes, Aaron Robinson, Isaac Yiadom, Rodarius Williams, Sam Beal, Jarren Williams, Madre Harper, Chris Milton, Quincy Wilson.
It is rare indeed when a high-priced free agent arrives and actually lives up to all the money, but that is what Bradberry did after breaking the bank on a three-year, $43.5 million deal, following four years with the Panthers. Bradberry rarely came off the field (he played 94 percent of the defensive snaps and showed great endurance) and the passer rating against him was 70.1, as he provided textbook coverage on some of the league’s top receivers. He heads into this season ranked No. 5 by Pro Football Focus among all outside cornerbacks.
Finding a running mate for him in the starting lineup was mission impossible in 2020 and the hope (and plan) is Jackson is the answer.
The 2017 first-round pick of the Titans was lured in with a three-year, $39 million contract, a deal that surprised many around the league who are not as high on him as the Giants. Gifted athletically and blessed with plenty of speed, Jackson played in only three games in 2020 because of a knee injury. He is only 25 as he embarks on his second NFL chapter as a key figure in the secondary.
Holmes as a rookie showed feistiness as a slot corner and is a willing student. Yiadom started 10 games last season and did not take ownership of the spot. Perhaps a more limited role suits him better. The coaching staff sees Robinson, a third-round pick from Central Florida, as versatile enough to play man or zone and he could be a factor as a rookie. Sam Beal, once projected to be a vital part of the secondary when he was taken in the third round of the 2018 supplemental draft, is more myth than anything else. He has not played much and recently pleaded guilty to two gun-related charges in Ohio. His place on the roster is tenuous, at best.
Jackson has the inside track to a starting job and he must show his knee is fully healed and can hold up to the pounding this summer.
Holmes faces challenges from versatile safeties Xavier McKinney and Julian Love as far as heading the depth chart at nickel corner. First-year players often struggle before they flourish and it remains to be seen if Robinson is a quick study. Williams impressed the coaching staff a year ago and managed to stick on the practice squad as an undrafted player from Albany. He needs to continue to impress to carve out a spot for himself.
Bradberry instantly elevated the entire operation at corner with his debut with the Giants and, with the expected increase in man coverage assignments, he should flourish even further. Keeping him healthy is imperative.
Jackson holds the key here. The Giants gave him $24.5 million in guaranteed money, so this is not an experiment. He must be really good to play up to the level of his contract and if he is, the effectiveness of the entire defensive backfield, and, yes, the entire defensive unit, gets elevated.
Jackson is one of the greatest risks on the roster and the payoff, or lack thereof, will determine much for this season. A team can never have enough corners and running short of them can sink any defense. The Giants are trending in the right direction at this spot.
Next up: Wide Receivers.