CHARLOTTE, NC - AUGUST 17: James Bradberry #24 of the Carolina Panthers talks with a referee between plays against the Miami Dolphins during the game at Bank of America Stadium on August 17, 2018 in Charlotte, North Carolina.
(Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images)

Acquiring free-agent cornerback James Bradberry looms large as the New York Giants prepare for this year’s training camp.

Jason Leach

New York Giants cornerback James Bradberry knew he would be playing a pivotal role on this Big Blue defense. He realized the extent of how valuable he would be when he signed a three-year deal with the team in March after spending his first four seasons in the league with the Carolina Panthers.

General manager Dave Gettleman understood that acquiring a veteran cornerback was a priority this offseason, considering New York released Janoris Jenkins late last season. Prior to the acquisition of Bradberry, who turns 27 in August, no other corner on the roster had three years of playing experience.

But the signing came in the midst of a strange offseason. Minicamp and OTAs were canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic and starting cornerback DeAndre Baker was arrested and charged with both armed robbery and aggravated assault.

Baker’s attorney has stated his client is innocent and the young player intends to report to training camp. Nonetheless, there’s still a question mark regarding his availability for the season with possible disciplinary action from the league.

So as training camp approaches, Bradberry (barring injury) is the only slated starting corner we know for certain will be available the entire season.

He was going to play a vital role in determining the Giants’ success this year, as he’s by far their most talented and experienced corner. And when you consider the age and lack of depth at that position, Bradberry might actually be the most valuable member of this defense.

The Giants will face many elite wide receivers this year, such as DeAndre Hopkins, Odell Beckham Jr., Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, Amari Cooper, and A.J. Green.

If defensive coordinator Patrick Graham’s scheme requires it, Bradberry will have to follow these wideouts. It’s paramount that he plays at a high level this season if the Giants want to stop or contain these high-powered passing offenses. Not only will the organization need him to play the best football of his career, but they’ll also need his health to remain intact.

Coaches preach a “next man up” mentality to their players, but it’d be hard to show optimism about the defense if Bradberry were to go down with an injury.

Fortunately for the Giants, Bradberry has been relatively healthy throughout his four-year career — he’s played in 60 out of a possible 64 games and only missed one matchup over the last three seasons.

In 2019, he notched a career-high three interceptions and was credited with 12 pass breakups through 15 games. The Giants hope he can exceed that level of play in 2020 and be a mentor to the young corners. If the team wants to improve on its 28th-ranked pass defense from a season ago, it’s definitely a must.

Football is the ultimate team game; it takes all 11 players on offense, defense, and special teams in order to win. But teams rely on some players more than others. It goes without question that Bradberry will be one of the most valuable Giants throughout the upcoming 2020 season.

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