Second-year cornerback Grant Haley is one of the Giants who could play a pivotal role in 2019, but he’s flying under the radar this summer.
A strong case can be made that the New York Giants deepest and most talented unit is their secondary. After all, general manager Dave Gettleman spent the offseason revamping a secondary that gave up 387 passing yards and four touchdowns in the season finale to Dak Prescott. The unit finished last season 23rd in pass defense.
First, he acquired free agent Antoine Bethea. Soon after, he acquired strong safety Jabrill Peppers in the Odell Beckham Jr. trade.
Then, Gettleman turned his attention towards the draft. He traded back into the first round to draft Georgia cornerback DeAndre Baker (30th overall). Then he took Notre Dame cornerback Julian Love in the fourth round (108th overall), and then took Washburn cornerback Corey Ballentine in the sixth round (180th overall).
With these additions, to go along with Janoris Jenkins and Michael Thomas, Giants fans are optimistic that this unit will fare much better than last year’s.
But there’s another player returning who could play a pivotal role for the Giants, and that’s second-year cornerback Grant Haley.
After playing four seasons with the Penn State Nittany Lions, where he amassed 139 tackles, five interceptions, and two sacks, Haley went undrafted in the 2018 draft.
The Giants signed the 5-foot-9, 190-pound cornerback as an undrafted free agent, but waived him on Sept. 2. The Giants would then sign Haley to their practice squad the next day.
The Giants would elevate Haley to their active roster Oct. 16 and he would make his NFL debut in the Giants 20-13 defeat at the hands of the Washington Redskins in Week 8 when he had four tackles.
Haley would go on to start nine games last season as their nickel corner. He had 33 tackles and was credited with breaking up two passes.
On the surface, it would appear Haley had a modest rookie season, especially when you factor in that he didn’t have an interception. But Pro Football Focus gave Haley the highest coverage grade of any Giant with a grade of 70.5.
The highest coverage grades from NFC East cornerbacks a season ago pic.twitter.com/6WiPQIxfO1
— PFF (@PFF) March 25, 2019
Now, the question is what we can expect from Haley in year two when players normally make their biggest leap?
At Giants OTAs, Haley resumed his position as the Giants starting nickel corner. But Haley knows it’s far from a lock that he’ll be the starting corner in Week 1 particularly since he’s an undrafted player, and with all of the added depth at the cornerback position.
If the competition is close between a drafted player and undrafted, teams tend to give the edge to the drafted player based on the investment they made on them.
It’s expected that Haley’s primary competition to be the starting nickel corner will be Julian Love, who is perhaps the most versatile corner of the Giants rookie class.
It’s imperative that Giants get solid play out of their nickel corner especially since they play four of the top 10 passing offenses from a season ago. Moreover, the division-rival Cowboys added slot receiver Randall Cobb.
Haley won’t be one of the players who will grab many headlines when training camp begins in fewer than three weeks. But he will be one of the most intriguing players to watch for.