There are going to be at least three new starters in the secondary for the New York Giants. Here’s what that group might look like in Week 1.
Continuity is paramount in the NFL, especially in the secondary. If players are not on the same page the result will be a touchdown for the opposition. Building continuity and chemistry in the secondary will be one of the challenges for New York Giants head coach Joe Judge and defensive backs coach Jerome Henderson.
In addition to the new coaching staff, cornerback DeAndre Baker is currently on the Commissioner’s Exempt list after being charged with four counts of robbery with a firearm. With Baker out of the mix, the only starter returning from last year’s team is strong safety Jabrill Peppers, who started 11 games last season.
Building chemistry would be a daunting task under normal circumstances let alone in 2020. As we all know, all offseason workouts and preseason games were canceled as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
This is far from an ideal scenario for a Giants defense that ranked 28th against the pass last season. But Judge has handled every situation thrown his way this offseason with the poise of a veteran coach rather than a rookie.
The Giants and the rest of the league are expected to practice with pads for the first time next week. With 7-on-7 as well as 11-on-11 drills, Judge and Henderson will have this unit as prepared as possible given the circumstances.
Here’s a look at what the Giants starting secondary will look like in Week 1 against the Pittsburgh Steelers.
RCB: James Bradberry
Considering how thin the Giants are at corner, acquiring Bradberry via free agency may prove to be the biggest signing in Dave Gettleman’s tenure with the Giants.
Bradberry can play on either side and since he’s the team’s best corner, he might be asked by defensive coordinator Patrick Graham to follow the opposing team’s best receiver.
FS: Xavier McKinney
Although all positions will be won and earned in training camp, it will be shocking if McKinney is not the starting free safety come Week 1. The athletic and versatile safety was considered by many to be the best safety in the draft, and he’s poised to make a huge impact as a rookie.
SS: Jabrill Peppers
As we mentioned previously, Peppers is the only starter returning from last season. Despite missing five games last season, he finished fourth on the team in tackles with 76.
The Giants are hopeful he can make an even bigger impact in his second season with Big Blue.
LCB: Ross Cockrell
With a cloud over DeAndre Baker’s future and Sam Beal opting out of the season, it was imperative the Gettleman acquire a veteran corner in Cockrell.
Once Cockrell passes all of the tests, he’ll officially be added to the roster. The 29-year-old Cockrell played for the Giants in 2017 and had three interceptions. He also has some familiarity with the Giants’ Week 1 opponent as he played for the Steelers from 2015-2016. He’ll be competing with other corners such as Corey Ballentine, but his experience should give him the edge needed to win the starting job.
Nickel CB: Julian Love
The defense may have fared better last season if Love had played more as a rookie. The first time he received extended playing time, he recorded his first career interception in Week 12 against the Bears.
Considering that offenses often run formations with three or more wide receivers, the nickel/slot corner is essentially a starter. Love has the technique and skill set to be a solid nickel corner for the Giants.