DeAndre Baker struggled badly throughout much of his rookie season with the NY Giants. Despite the inconsistent play, Baker’s natural abilities and progress at the end of the season leave room for optimism in 2020.
The NY Giants secondary is an area of the team that needs to be addressed this offseason. The Giants secondary allowed a 101.4 passer rating against in 2019. The biggest scapegoat for the team’s struggle against the pass has been DeAndre Baker.
Why should NY Giants fans still be excited about DeAndre Baker? According to Pro Football Focus, Baker was actually one of the NFL’s highest-rated cornerbacks during the final six weeks of the season.
During that stretch, his 48.5 completion percentage allowed was better than All-Pro cornerbacks Stephen Gilmore and Tre’Davious White. Baker began to play with more confidence and fans began to see some of the reasons the NY Giants traded up the first round to draft him.
What does Deandre Baker do well? He is a physical player that plays the run well for a cornerback. Even when he struggled against the pass at the beginning of the season, he was solid in run support. His 55 solo tackles ranked 19th in the NFL for his position. He also has fluid hips and is able to change direction easily to stay close to wide receivers.
Baker dominated college football in the toughest conference in the country, typically in one-on-one situations. Why didn’t this transfer over right away from the SEC? DeAndre was able to sit down with for an interview with Victor Cruz right after the season and offer some insight.
Baker mentioned how quarterbacks get the ball out much quicker in the NFL. Cornerback is the most difficult position to master (after quarterback), and Baker took some time getting used to the speed of the game. The Giants also put him in some very difficult positions, like when he was asked to cover Amari Cooper one-on-one during this first-ever regular-season game.
Baker was asked to cover receivers one-on-one without the benefit of an effective pass-rush. That would hurt the confidence of any cornerback, but especially a rookie that had never had to deal with failure as a football player.
A turning point in Bakers’ season might have been the 47-yard reception the Giants gave up to the Jets’ Demaryius Thomas in week 10 before the bye week. Baker appeared to be jogging and showing a lack of effort on the play.
A chance to reflect and learn during the bye week appeared to help Baker immensely. After the bye, Baker began to finally resemble the player he was in college. Baker wasn’t asked to play soft zone coverage as much, which resulted in him getting beat less over the top.
Joe Judge talked about maximizing his players’ strengths during his introductory press conference. Judge would be wise to allow Baker to play more press-man to man and zone coverage like he did at Georgia. DeAndre Baker wasn’t just a good player at Georgia, the Jim Thorpe Award recipient dominated elite SEC receivers.
A new coaching staff that believes in teaching and developing players over fitting them into a specific scheme should help Baker continue the development he made at the end of the 2019 season. He will be allowed to play to his strengths more, and the front office should be able to bolster the pass-rush with lots of money to spend in free agency. An improved pass-rush should allow Baker to play more aggressively.
Thrown into the fire in 2019, DeAndre Baker should be a much more confident player in his sophomore season. Corey Webster was a Giants corner that struggled early with his confidence and then flourished on two Super Bowl-winning defenses.
If Baker is able to develop in a similar fashion, then Giants fans will be very excited about the young cornerback they picked in the first round of the 2019 NFL draft.