Much ado has been made about what the New York Giants seemingly lack in the secondary.
In 2018, the secondary was ranked near the bottom of the NFL as a unit. The team was also universally criticized for allowing Landon Collins, the Giants’ most consistent player since he was drafted, to sign with the division rival Washington Redskins as a free agent. If the Giants allowed a player of Collins’ caliber to leave without getting anything in return, the secondary should suck, right? The truth is the Giants secondary will be better than most predict as it has the perfect mix of youth and experience.
Jackrabbit is entering his fourth season as a Giant (eighth overall) and the only returning defensive back starter from ’18. He began his Giants career with a bang only to cool each season after his inaugural with the team. In all fairness, he dealt with both injuries and personal matters off the field. Jenkins was the archetype shutdown corner in 2016, a season where the Giants allowed the fewest touchdowns in the league. He began to look more and more like his old self towards the end of last season, not allowing a touchdown in the team’s final five games. Jackrabbit still has the ability to turn any interception into a pick-6 and quarterbacks will be reluctant to throw to his side of the field. In 2019, he needs to be more than just a great player. He will be counted on to step into Collins’ role as leader.
Bethea is another player familiar with Bettcher’s defense from his stint with the Arizona Cardinals. He enters 2019 as the Giants’ third-oldest player with questions of his durability circling for reasons unknown. Bethea started all 16 games for the Cardinals last season, missing only four of a possible 1,115 defensive snaps and leading the team in tackles (121 combined, 100 solo). He was brought in to replace the inconsistent Curtis Riley at free safety and is considered an upgrade at the position even though he turns 35 on Saturday.
Peppers arrived in East Rutherford in the Odell Beckham Jr. trade. He may very well be the Giants’ most underrated player. Peppers markedly improved in his second season compared to his rookie year with 79 combined tackles (52 solo), five tackles for a loss, four quarterback hits, five passes defended and three fumbles recovered. Peppers is a jack-of-all-trades player who does everything well but doesn’t stand out in any particular area. He will need to digest the defense quickly and contend with the fact he will be forever associated with the departures of both Beckham and Collins. There is nothing in Peppers’ resume that says he won’t be able to become one of the team’s defensive stars.
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Baker was the Giants’ final 2019 first-round (30th overall) selection. He is a physical bump-and-run corner who has been playing soft coverage because contact rules during organized team activities (OTAs). Baker allowed just one touchdown in four seasons at Georgia and that was in his sophomore season. Opposing receivers gained just 470 yards against Baker in his final two seasons with the Bulldogs combined. The 5-foot-11, 180-pound Baker doesn’t look like a cornerback who dominated college football’s best conference and that gives him an advantage. He is anxious to get on the field for training camp because “you can’t really get your hands on them in minicamp”. Baker is a favorite to line up with Jenkins on the other side but has to have a standout training camp and preseason to make the coaches’ decision that much more difficult.
Beal was selected in the third round of last year’s Supplemental Draft. His season was over before it could begin when he was placed on season-ending injured reserve after surgery to repair a torn labrum. He spent his 2018 season as an advance scout for the DBs as they prepared to face each week’s opponent. This consisted of watching film and preparing reports detailed enough to wow both teammates and the coaching staff. Beal doesn’t lack confidence and impressed throughout the spring, taking a majority of his snaps with Jenkins and the first-team. He says his shoulder is 100 percent healed but the true test will come in training camp when he actually has to hit somebody.
Ballentine made headlines when he was injured in a draft-night shooting that took the life of his best friend and college teammate. He made a quiet return to the practice field a month later with no physical signs of his ordeal. Ballentine has speed, the ability to mirror routes, and long arms to serve him well in the coverage game. He will more than likely begin his NFL career on special teams.
Haley fought his way onto the Giants roster last season as an undrafted free agent. He made his way to the practice squad after being released at the end of training camp. He was signed to the active roster after Week 7, making nine starts at nickel cornerback. Haley will have to fight his way onto the roster again as the Giants drafted three cornerbacks.
Love is the Giants’ third Notre Dame selection since Justin Tuck in 2005. He primarily played second-team slot corner during minicamp where he received an education from both Sterling Shepard and Golden Tate. General manager Dave Gettleman thinks Love may have a future with the team at free safety, especially since Bethea is only signed through the end of the 2020 season.
In 2016, the New York Giants secondary received the nickname NYPD (New York Pass Defense). They were at the top of their game, a formidable collection of talent which put the clamps on any attempts to score or gain yardage through the air. In the two seasons since, the Giants have been among the worst teams in NFL in terms of passing yards allowed and interceptions. They need the experience of Jenkins and Bethea to lead this young, but promising group. They will be better than anyone expects but they have to be at the top of their game and then some if the Giants hope to erase the stench of season’s past.
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