The New York Giants could work cornerback Darnay Holmes — their fourth-round selection — at a number of spots in 2020.
As I’ve said many times before, you can never employ too much depth at any position in football, especially when it comes to the defensive backfield. The New York Giants kept that idea in mind during April’s NFL Draft, having selected a trio of defensive backs to add to a secondary that ranked 28th in the league last year with 264.1 passing yards allowed per game.
Of the trio, one happened to be Darnay Holmes (round No. 4, pick No. 110), a promising cornerback out of UCLA who definitely possesses talent but will need to put in a ton of work before seeing significant amounts of playing time. He’s most certainly raw right now, so the Giants likely won’t field him at the starting cornerback spot opposite the newly acquired James Bradberry.
Having said that, how exactly will Big Blue use Holmes in 2020?
Well, just because he likely won’t see time at one of the two primary cornerback spots doesn’t mean he won’t acquire the chance to portray his talents from the slot corner position. Heading into the 2020 campaign, the Giants will hold a widespread position battle at that spot, and Holmes will definitely find himself in the middle of it.
The 22-year-old will likely compete against second-year players Julian Love and Corey Ballentine, third-year players Grant Haley and Sam Beal, along with fellow rookie Chris Williamson. The Giants drafted the latter-most individual in this year’s seventh round.
Holmes may have an easier time beating out Williamson and Beal for the job. The former will need to compete just to make the final roster and the latter has had his fair share of injury-related issues. Beal is indeed a former third-round supplemental draft pick, but the fact that he’s played just six games out of a possible 32 makes his future in blue that much more uncertain.
That leaves Love, Ballentine, and Haley, who all possess more experience performing on a pro-level defense than Holmes. Love, specifically, is simply more talented than the rookie as well. The former Notre Dame standout started five games at strong safety last year and was going to potentially become the starting free safety for 2020. That’s, of course, until the Giants decided to select Xavier McKinney in this year’s second round.
Holmes will have a large and difficult task on his hands if he wants to beat out the three aforementioned names for the starting slot corner job. In order to ultimately pass the test, the quality he’ll need to display the most is physicality.
Luckily, he carried that talent with the Bruins, having notched 120 total tackles (88 solo) in 35 career collegiate matchups, averaging 3.4 total tackles (2.5 solo) per game.
Showing off his ability to come up and hit still might not be enough to crack the starting lineup though. But, proving to the coaching staff that he at least has that strength in his repertoire will go a long way in terms of his future. Thus, even if he doesn’t win the competition, the position battle could still become a beneficial experience for Holmes.
Another area of potential playing time could be on special teams. In all likelihood, this is the department Holmes will need to succeed in before anything else.
The Giants haven’t exactly employed a consistent kick returner since the Dwayne Harris days, so that could indeed be a spot for Holmes. He didn’t return many kicks for the Bruins over his final pair of collegiate seasons, but he at least has enough experience in this area in order to possibly be given a look during the training camp and preseason periods.
During his 2017 freshman campaign, Holmes returned 33 kicks for 715 yards, averaging 21.7 yards per return. He then recorded just five combined kick returns for 163 yards (32.6 yards per return) and one score during his sophomore and junior seasons.
This spot will also play host to a deep competition prior to the regular season, once again giving Holmes a noteworthy number of bodies to battle against.
Individuals like Ballentine, wideout Corey Coleman, wideout Da’Mari Scott, undrafted rookie running back Javon Leake, and potentially veteran running back Dion Lewis could be in the mix.
Holmes will need to put in the work in order to beat out the above names, especially Leake, who I believe is the sleeper pick for this position. Nonetheless, if the former UCLA athlete can channel the level of talent he displayed back in 2017, he could ultimately earn some reps and snatch the attention of the coaching staff.
It’ll be a long shot for Holmes to earn a significant deal of playing time in his first season. There’s likely no chance for him to start at one of the two primary cornerback spots considering his inexperience. Not to mention, he wasn’t the greatest cover corner at the collegiate level. And as far as the slot corner and kick returner spots are concerned, Holmes could have a number of guys to compete against.
But regardless, competition brings out the best in everyone, and Holmes will earn the opportunity to show this mostly new staff his on-field strengths within these battles. This will assist in the coaches potentially gaining confidence in him, and from there, they may be able to pinpoint a number of spots they could work him at as he progresses in his career.