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Sam Beal and DeAndre Baker Looking the Part of NFL Cornerbacks

If preparation is the key to how someone will perform on-stage, then Sam Beal and DeAndre Baker are looking the part of an NFL cornerback this off-season.
DeAndre Baker

Becoming teammates with the New York Giants almost never became reality for Sam Beal and DeAndre Baker as each chose a different path following their junior season only to end up in the same uniform. One made himself eligible for last summer’s NFL Supplemental Draft, only to miss his entire rookie season due to injury. The other chose to remain in school after failing to win a national championship, then went on to have an outstanding senior season.

The journey to New York might not have stayed on course at times, but Beal and Baker have afforded themselves an opportunity to earn a position with Big Blue.

Together, they hope to make a difference in a new-look Giants defensive secondary.

Sam Beal and DeAndre Baker Looking to Progress in 2019

OTAs Has Accelerated Inexperienced Secondary’s Growth

In today’s NFL, it’s near impossible to get any on-field practice time in the off-season. The lone source for young players to accelerate their development as professionals is securing reps at off-season team activities (OTAs). No two players gained more at the Giants OTAs than Beal and Baker, which shouldn’t come as a big surprise to anyone. Both players fit perfectly into the franchise’s current defensive scheme. Their comfort level grew once they grasp their on-field assignments.

If first impressions mean anything towards predicting an NFL career, then Beal and Baker had a very promising start. Both exhibited quiet confidence with their answers while meeting with the press before showing off their athleticism during position drills. Right now, Beal and Baker’s goal is all about helping the Giants climb back to respectability.

It will be fun to watch Beal and Baker interact with the other members of the Giants young secondary at training camp this month. The fans will have to show some patience as it will take time for this group to gain chemistry and make plays as a cohesive unit. However, no one will be able to judge how far advanced their development is until they compete against one another on the practice field.

Maturity Is Key for Beal’s Success

The Giants used a third-round pick to select Beal in last summer’s Supplemental Draft and as fate would have it, team doctors determined that he needed season-ending shoulder surgery to repair a torn labrum on the first day of training camp. It was a tough blow for Beal, but the same injured shoulder that sidelined him prior to the start of his junior season at Western Michigan.

Despite the preseason setback, Beal never missed a game and earned himself second-team All-MAC honors for his outstanding play. But more importantly, Beal caught the eyes of NFL talent evaluators. When his academic standing came under question, it was in Beal’s best interest to leave school and enter the NFL.

His year away from the football field allowed him to learn his trade from inside the film room. The defensive coaching staff encouraged Beal to create a scouting report on that week’s opponent which would be shared with his teammates. Everyone came away quite impressed with how detailed the reports were as it showed how quickly Beal adapted to NFL game prep.

Still, he has to prove his worth on the field this summer as Beal will need time to reintroduce himself to the game of football. But in the brief glimpses of him at OTAs, you can’t come away without thinking that Beal’s pass defending skills are simply off-the-charts.

By no means is Beal a physical (6’1″, 185 pounds) specimen, but his technique allows him to disrupt a receiver’s pass route by tying him up at the line of scrimmage. Beal’s athleticism and quickness allows him to shadow receivers all way downfield. Once Beal finishes honing his skills, he will become a logical choice to break into the Giants starting lineup.

Baker’s Collegiate Resume Doesn’t Guarantee NFL Stardom

Arguably, Baker was one of the top cornerbacks in last spring’s NFL Draft. What’s not to like, the talented corner had a tremendous senior season at Georgia. In 13 games, Baker had 40 tackles, two interceptions, and 12 pass breakups which garnered him the 2018 Jim Thorpe Award, All-SEC first-team and 2018 Walter Camp All-American first-team honors.

Giants general manager Dave Gettleman took an interest in Baker after witnessing his workout at the NFL Combine last February. When the opportunity was right, he traded three (37, 132, 142 overall) draft picks to get back into the first round to select the Georgia Bulldog standout. What convinced Gettleman to pursue him was the belief that Baker’s skill level and personality made him the perfect foundation piece for his revamped defense.

Giants defensive coordinator James Bettcher expects his unit to play aggressive and take chances in stopping an opposing offense. Often, this style of play leaves the cornerbacks on an island all to themselves when defending a receiver in tight man-to-man coverage. Unfortunately, they won’t have a safety coming over the top to assist with defending deep throws downfield. Gettleman considers Baker a lock-down defender who can make life difficult for opposing receivers who cannot gain separation off the snap of the ball.

For the moment, Janoris Jenkins is the Giants starting strong-side cornerback. But it shouldn’t surprise anyone if Beal and Baker see significant time on the field this season. Each is confident in their own play-making ability because of the hard work they put on the practice field each day.

For the Giants sake, you hope it won’t be too long before we’re arguing if Beal or Baker is the better cornerback.

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