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New York Giants Cornerback Options Behind DeAndre Baker

New York Giants Cornerback

With troubling allegations surrounding the arrest of DeAndre Baker, the Giants cornerback group is in flux. Baker was expected to start on the outside across from James Bradberry.

Now, there is much uncertainty surrounding the position as Baker awaits legal actions to proceed. As the saying goes, “Next man up”. The Giants will need one of their young guys to step up to replace Baker. How might that be done? Let’s take a look.

Breaking Down the New York Giants Cornerback Options Behind DeAndre Baker

Sam Beal

Sam Beal needs to step up for Big Blue in his third NFL season. Beal has had an unusual path to start his NFL career.

He entered the supplemental draft instead of the regular NFL Draft in 2018. Then he suffered a season-ending shoulder injury in his first training camp that forced him to take a medical redshirt for his first NFL season. 

He sat in team meetings and soaked up all the information given, but couldn’t take the field with his teammates. His second season got off to a rough start too, as a nagging hamstring injury derailed his off-season and he spent the first nine weeks of the season on injured reserve.

Beal came off IR and finally made his NFL debut on Week 10 vs the New York Jets where he collected his first career tackle. From there, he experienced a rough entrance to the league as several opposing quarterbacks were picking on him all over the field.

Beal seemed to have the game slow down for him as the season progressed and he made a great play, tackling Miami Dolphins running back Patrick Laird in the endzone for a much-needed safety for the Giants defense.

Beal has the intangibles teams look for in starting cornerbacks at 6’1″, 190 pounds. He now must stay healthy and keep getting better as he enters a critical third season. 

Beal will get a great opportunity to start alongside James Bradberry if he puts together a strong training camp and good preseason. He was a David Gettleman draft pick and his spot on the roster is likely secure barring another injury. Look for him to be right in the mix at the top of the list of the team’s replacements for Baker.

Corey Ballentine

Corey Ballentine is another player who got off to a bad start to his NFL career. His draft night celebrations were tragically ruined as he was shot in his a drive-by shooting. He lost his best friend and teammate Dwane Simmons who was murdered in vain. 

Corey then had to spend his first off-season rehabbing a leg injury from his gun wounds instead of competing on the field with his teammates. Ballentine rehabbed and worked his way back from an unimaginable tragedy. 

Ballentine already was entering the league with a major chip on his shoulder. He came out of a small school, D-II Washburn University. Ballentine caught the eyes of NFL teams at the Reese’s Senior Bowl where he shined in coverage against some of the nation’s top college senior receivers. 

Ballentine stands at 6’0″, 195 pounds, and isn’t afraid of anyone. He is a supremely gifted athlete with an ability to find the ball and make a play on it. He also showcased his versatility in college by returning kicks and punts for the Ichabods.

Ballentine experienced the difficulties that are expected with fifth-round rookie cornerbacks. He struggled with both man and zone coverage and will need to better utilize his speed and closing ability to make plays on NFL receivers. 

Entering his second season, Corey will need to show the new coaching staff why he belongs on the field. He needs to clean up on mental mistakes and let the game come naturally to him as he gets more and more snaps. 

Ballentine also got 10 opportunities to run back kickoffs his rookie year. He did a nice, respectable job taking them for 256 yards, good for 25.6 yards per return. He utilized his speed well and he did a good job of finding the open holes. 

As long as Ballentine keeps working and keeps getting better, he will see the field more and more. He may not be a full-time starter, but hopefully, somebody that is trustworthy and reliable and won’t be the easy target for quarterbacks like last season. Ballentine will make the team’s roster and will need to fight for every rep he gets this season.

Julian Love

Julian Love is the second of three Giants defensive backs taken in the 2019 Draft. Love was a well-respected player coming out of Notre Dame. He was lauded for his smarts, toughness, football IQ, and his versatility. 

The Giants used Love extensively in both nickel situations with him in the slot and he played deep safety after Jabrill Peppers’ season-ending injury. He showcased his versatility playing both safety and corner his rookie year with mixed results.

According to the Giants’ team website, Love’s position recently changed on the team’s roster page. He was listed a safety but has since changed to cornerback. Look for him to continue playing both positions again this year.

Love is a talented player who has a knack for making plays and finding the football. He isn’t the fastest guy on the field but he wins with technique and he is patient and confident in his own abilities. 

Love may be better suited for the slot than the outside but it is something that he excelled at in college where he took All-American honors in 2018. Love is an intriguing player for 2020 and has a great chance to make one of the team’s biggest individual improvements from last season.

Grant Haley

Grant Haley has made it through two NFL seasons after surviving and hanging around as an undrafted rookie free agent in 2018. Haley is certainly one of the smallest guys on the field at 5’8″, 190 pounds but he makes up for it with his heart, toughness, and tackling ability. 

Haley has inconsistently seen the field through two years. He’s started 12 games with nine of them coming his rookie season before dropping to three starts in 2019. He is a sure-fire tackler in the run game and fits in nicely and also makes an impact tackling guys near the line of scrimmage for minimal gains after a reception.  

Grant is a fearless player who always plays full-speed with maximum effort. He is limited by his height and struggles with bigger receivers but he is always up for the challenge. He will fight for a roster spot in 2020 after the team added potentially four newcomers to the position in 2020. 

Darnay Holmes

Darnay Holmes finds himself in a vast crowd of competition entering his first experience of NFL football. Holmes comes from UCLA where he started 33 out of the 35 games he played for the Bruins. He put up 120 tackles, eight interceptions, and two touchdowns in his prestigious Pac-12 career. 

Holmes finds himself in an interesting position as his NFL off-season has been completely remote and virtual up to this point. It will be hard for coaches to get a good look at him on the field until training camp when he has his first taste of pro ball. 

He has been commended for being a highly mature, responsible, and passionate football player. Holmes has a fascinating personal story as his father was shot nearly dead and was subsequently arrested after an awry drug deal went bad. Darick, Holmes’ father overcame his addiction and turned a new leaf which helped pave the way for Holmes’ greatness on the gridiron. 

Holmes uses his speed, technique, and quick-twitch athleticism to glue onto receivers and blanket their coverage. He will likely not find the same success right away in the NFL but with proper coaching and development, he can find a meaningful role on the team. 

The Giants will have a competition to start at the slot and Holmes figures to be right in the middle of it. He has a great opportunity to take advantage of a strong training camp and some good plays in the preseason. 

I expect Holmes to be a contributing nickelback amongst a rotating committee at the position. As the season goes, Holmes hopefully plays well and sees the field more and more as the Giants look to hit on another Day 3 draft pick.

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