If cornerback DeAndre Baker doesn’t play for the New York Giants in 2020 amid his legal troubles, who could ultimately replace him?
Over the past seven days, much has occurred with the New York Giants in the midst of a weird and unusual offseason. Despite the fact that no games are occurring and meetings are taking place in a virtual setting, those involved with the organization have much to talk about amid the DeAndre Baker situation.
The 2019 first-round pick was recently accused of armed robbery and aggravated assault — both with a firearm — and is facing four charges for each. He turned himself in to police at Broward County Jail and posted $200,000 bail this past weekend, as the Giants have reportedly told him to stay away from meetings while he deals with this serious matter.
While the 22-year-old’s attorneys are portraying their required confidence in his innocence, Baker is still facing heavy-duty charges. He’ll receive a 15-year mandatory minimum prison sentence for each count of armed robbery with a firearm if convicted. Unless, of course, he strikes some sort of deal.
So if things don’t work out for Baker from a legal standpoint and he doesn’t suit up for the Giants in 2020, who would ultimately be his replacement at one of the two starting corner spots?
Well, for one, there wouldn’t be a widespread position battle like what the nickel corner spot is slated to entail. I believe there are definitely individuals on this roster who possess the ability to play in the slot but aren’t talented or experienced enough to perform alongside James Bradberry as one of the two primary starting corners.
Right now, there are three main guys who would potentially compete to be Baker’s replacement in the event that he doesn’t play. Two are entering their second year while the third is preparing for his third season despite the fact that he’s only played six total NFL regular-season games.
Corey Ballentine earned a significant deal of playing time last year, performing in 13 games with a pair of starts at slot corner. Sure he struggled, but his career did commence with absolute tragedy. He and close friend Dwane Simmons were both shot just hours after Ballentine was drafted. The 2019 sixth-round pick was wounded while Simmons was murdered.
It’s clear the organization carries faith in Ballentine considering they saw something in him during his time with Washburn University, a Division II program. And despite the fact that he struggled last year (quarterbacks completed 64.3% of throws for 393 yards and four touchdowns when targeting him), a fresh start with a new coaching staff could be exactly what Ballentine needs.
How he performs in the training camp and preseason periods will be crucial to where the Giants field him in 2020. If he were to ultimately grab more attention from the coaching staff than others, he would possibly be an option.
The second potential choice would be my favorite to win the job, and that’s the ever so versatile Julian Love. New York drafted this man as a corner in 2019 and fielded him as a safety, possessing much confidence in the former Notre Dame standout who was a consensus All-American in 2018.
Love relieved an injured Jabrill Peppers in Week 12 of last year and started the final five games at strong safety after the team learned of Peppers’ season-ending transverse process fracture. He then was supposed to potentially be the team’s starting free safety in 2020 prior to last month’s second-round selection of Xavier McKinney.
If the team is confident that he can play multiple positions throughout the defensive backfield, they’d likely be comfortable throwing him back to the spot he succeeded at during his collegiate tenure.
And finally, Sam Beal would also be a name to consider, in spite of the fact that he’d be the least likely (in my opinion) to win the job. Simply speaking, the health-related issues are a concern. He’s played in six regular-season games out of a possible 32 and missed his entire first season with a shoulder injury after the Giants took him in the 2018 supplemental draft.
Through those six matchups (three starts) in 2019, Beal was able to record 26 combined tackles (20 solo) with an impressive 0.0% missed tackle percentage. He can clearly come up and make contact from the defensive backfield, which would suit well with Joe Judge, a head coach that preaches versatility and aggression.
Beal wasn’t nearly as impressive as a pass defender though, having allowed quarterbacks to complete 16 of 21 attempts for 171 yards and a touchdown when throwing his way. That’s obviously the No. 1 priority over the physical traits, which would put him at a disadvantage.
There are additionally two honorable mentions that I will introduce to this conversation regardless of the fact that I believe their chances of winning the job would be extremely low.
The Giants used their fourth-round pick this year to draft UCLA’s Darnay Holmes, an individual who’s slated to compete to be the team’s starting nickel corner. Taking over Baker’s spot would be a stretch for the current 21-year-old, but that doesn’t mean he wouldn’t portray a significant level of competitiveness during the training camp and preseason periods.
The second honorable mention is Grant Haley, who notched starts at slot corner the past two seasons after signing as an undrafted free agent ahead of the 2018 campaign. He struggled mightily in pass coverage last season, allowing quarterbacks to complete 32 of 39 attempts (82.1%) when targeting him.
He still would possibly be considered due to his experience though. Having played in 25 career NFL games, Haley has taken part in more matchups at the pro level than any of the other aforementioned potential options.