Of all the areas of the team, the NY Giants secondary is the squad to watch for next season. They got a lot better this offseason, mainly through the draft and further enhanced by significant free-agent signings.
James Bradberry is the newest – and highest-paid (on defense) – Giant, and without stepping on the field, is already one of their biggest stars on defense. The 26-year-old was signed to a sensible 3-year, $45 million contract for this season, and if you take into account that he was the second-best CB available next to Byron Jones (who signed with the Miami Dolphins and was the clear-cut star of the pool of cornerbacks), Bradberry’s signing was a steal.
Originally drafted by Gettleman as the 62nd overall selection in the 2016 draft (second-round), expect him to be an impact player on the field; especially as he’s entering his prime playing years heading into next season. Even so, he’ll have to work to fill the leadership void within the Giants starved secondary as the incoming star of management’s free agency haul this offseason.
While DeAndre Baker (former first-round pick form 2019) is still likely to start as the other CB next year, it is currently unclear if he will ever play for the team again. However, in the event Baker doesn’t return, safety Julian Love does have experience playing cornerback from his college days at Notre Dame, in addition to playing a few downs last year at the position. He may be ready to step up this season should the Giants lose Baker because of his recent assault charges.
Unfortunately for this unit, Baker was supposed to be the centerpiece of the Giants’ new and improved defensive schemes under Graham, owing to his success at being a well-balanced, starting defender. And missing the mark on first-round picks is not something any team recovers from easily.
So, enter Xavier McKinney, the team’s pick at 36th overall received high praise, as he not only played well under Nick Saban at Alabama, he was also considered one of the best safeties on the board in this year’s draft. Given the recent developments with Baker, Gettleman and his staff lucked out more than they know by taking him when they did.
He’s an elite player who can develop into a great leader for the Giants defense. He’s also an alpha-dog, something former NY Giants, and Hall of Famer, Michael Strahan told The New York Times’ David Marchese when he said, “We need to find some dogs.” Also, with the Giants exercising Jabrill Pepper’s fifth-year option, he and Xavier McKinney have all the makings of a dynamic and impactful safety duo next season.
Drafted in the fourth round, CB Darnay Holmes has been touted as being one of the smartest IQ players in the entire draft pool, according to Bob Papa, Shaun O’Hara and Carl Banks on the NY Giants YouTube channel. In fact, when asked by these guys, the NY Giants Director of College Scouting, Chris Pettit, said, “he’s one of the hardest-working players I’ve evaluated in my career.” That’s high praise for a rookie who, if this turns out to be true, could also be used to fill-in for a missing Baker.
Additionally, the Giants continued their search for depth by signing Dravon Askew-Henry (a former XFL player) who’s expected to compete for a spot as a slot corner or at safety. They also signed former New England Patriot, Nate Ebner to a one-year deal.
He should be expected to be a leader on special teams, teaching the younger players the new system under Special teams coordinator Thomas McGaughey; who was no doubt brought in by Judge to help him instill the “Patriot Way” in their football program.
Finally, the undrafted players to watch out for in camp includes a pair of cornerbacks (Malcolm Elmore who recorded 133 tackles and 8 interceptions in his four-years at Central Methodist University,and CB Christian Angulo out of Hampton).
They also signed the 6’0, 200 LBs DB Jaquarius Landrews out of Mississippi State who offers versatility based on his experience playing strong safety and nickel. They also inked a safety (Montre Hartage) and a defensive back (Christian Angulo) who will also be in line to compete for a spot on the 53-man roster.
Here’s how the depth chart looks ahead of Training Camp in late July (22nd)*
Left Cornerback LCB: DeAndre Baker, Sam Beal, Ronald Zamort, Darnary Holmes
Strong Safety SS: Jabrill peppers, Rashaan Gaulden, Mark McLaurin, Dravon Askew-Henry
Free Safety FS: Xavier McKinney, Julian Love, Sean Chandler, Nate Ebner
Right Cornerback RCB: James Bradberry, Corey Ballentine, Grant Haley, Henre’ Toliver