By Jeff Moeller, The New York extra/thenyextra.com
The Giants’ secondary –primarily the cornerbacks — was going to be a work in progress.
However, it suddenly may be time to revamp some of its plans.
On paper, the linebacking corps has the most depth, the line had promise, and the secondary had the initial makings of a solid unit. This is supposed to be the year of the overall defensive makeover of a relatively young team for new coordinator Patrick Graham after an ugly campaign last year.
The Giants opened practice this week with one cornerback slot secured and the other slightly tightened. At safety, veteran Jabrill Peppers will be at strong spot, and likely second-year player Julian Love at the free spot.
With touted second-round safety Xaiver McKinney able to grow on his own along with others on the depth chart there, that doesn’t appear to be an issue.
Now comes the fun part.
Former Panther James Bradberry was signed in the offseason to bring some veteran leadership to corner, and 2019 first-round pick DeAndre Baker figured to stabilize his stumbles from a year ago. Sam Beal, who was viewed as a solution if he could shake his injuries, was confident and healthy.
The Giants apparently neatly tied the situation together when they lured veteran corner and Bradberry teammate Ross Cockrell to begin the season as the other corner.
A few days ago, unfortunately, it was time to go to Plan B.
Baker was formally charged with four counts of armed robbery, Beal opted out due to CO-VID 19 concerns, and Cockrell couldn’t reach a deal financially. Baker allegedly has a better shot at covering receivers in a prison yard than in the Meadowlands.
Where does Graham go from here?
He’ll have to look to Grant Haley and Corey Ballantine, both of whom could have used another year of seasoning as backups and special teams. Haley cracked the lineup for some time in 2018 and has been a productive nickle back, and Ballantine made some plays last season.
There also is fourth-round pick Darnay Holmes and seventh-rounder Chris Williamson. The Giants liked Holmes’ intellectual approach and aggressive play at UCLA, but they will see in team scrimmages if it translated well to the next level. Williamson also is aggressive and physical and has the flexibility to move around.
Don’t look for the Giants to get back into the free-agent market soon with the Cockrell debacle despite having veterans Morris Claiborne, Dre Kirkpatrick, Logan Ryan, and Aqib Talib among others still unemployed.
Rumblings already have surfaced indicating that Holmes could be a starter alongside Bradberry, who will get the visiting team’s No. 1 receiver assignment. At age 27, Bradberry is the unit’s elder statesman, and the Giants are hoping his prime years will trigger this season.
With the current players in the secondary on their roster, the average age is 23 years old – not exactly a reassuring thought for an overall unit seeking to find its footing.
Graham will help his secondary with his penchant for blitzing, but he also has a preference for playing man coverage with his corners. He won’t have the luxury of preseason games to tinker. Instead, Graham will rely on his instincts from individual plays in practices and intra-squad scrimmages.
For Graham and his secondary, what once was seen as interesting certainly will continue to be as well as intriguing and intensifying.