The New York Giants upgraded their secondary this offseason through the draft, free agency, and trade, and now, it might be the strongest unit on the team.
The New York Giants made several changes to their roster this offseason, but no unit showcases more new names than the secondary.
After giving up 387 passing yards and four touchdowns to Dak Prescott in the Giants season finale, a 36-35 loss to the Cowboys, and finishing 23rd in pass defense, major changes were needed.
General manager Dave Gettleman made it a priority to revamp one of the teams’ weakest units early on in the offseason.
First, he made a blockbuster trade in March by trading away three-time Pro Bowl wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. to the Cleveland Browns for strong safety Jabrill Peppers and two draft picks that would wind up being defensive lineman Dexter Lawrence (17th overall) and edge rusher Oshane Ximines (95th overall).
Peppers will be an upgrade in pass coverage over the departed Collins. Time will tell whether or not he can be as efficient of run stopper Collins was.
Next up on Gettleman’s list was to acquire a free safety. He accomplished this by signing one of defensive coordinator James Bettcher’s former players in Antoine Bethea. Despite entering his 14th season (aged 35 come July), Bethea showed that he can still play at a high-level last season when he led the Arizona Cardinals in tackles (121).
Employing Bethea at free safety is a huge upgrade over last year’s starter, Curtis Riley.
Then Gettleman turned his attention to the draft to upgrade the secondary as he used three of the Giants 10 draft picks on cornerbacks.
First, he traded back into the first round to take Georgia cornerback Deandre Baker (30th overall), who was considered by many to be the best cornerback in the draft. Then he took Julian Love out of Notre Dame in the fourth round (108th overall), who many thought he had second round talent. The last corner taken by Gettleman was Corey Ballentine in the seventh round (180th), who was unable to participate in rookie minicamp due to recovering from a gunshot wound.
Baker and Love did participate in rookie and both displayed excellent footwork and the ability to break on the ball. Baker performed so well in rookie camp that he was the starting left corner with the first team defense on the first day of minicamp this week, along with Peppers and Bethea in the secondary.
All three new additions performed as well as you can expect to play in minicamp and have already begun the gelling process of becoming a unit.
Following Tuesday’s practice, Pepper was asked what it’s like to play with Bethea.
“It has been tremendous, it has been tremendous. A guy who has played that much football in this league, definitely fortunate and he definitely knows what he’s doing. Any chance I get to pick his brain and see what he does well, what methods work well for him, that’s what I’m gonna do. I have no problem asking. He has no problem relaying information I need, so it has been great.”
The starting secondary of Jenkins, Baker, Peppers, Bethea and Grant Haley, who played nickel corner on Tuesday have the potential to be a top 10 unit in the league that can close out games in the fourth quarter.
What was one of the team’s Achilles’ heel a season ago is now arguably their best and deepest unit.
The four projected starters are so talented that players such as Michael Thomas, Sam Beal and Julian Love are playing with the second-team defense at practice.
For years, the secondary has been vulnerable, especially when it comes to covering tight ends down the field. Based on the three new starters, those problems should be a thing of the past.