PASADENA, CA - SEPTEMBER 01: Darnay Holmes #1 of the UCLA Bruins catches a punt during a 26-17 loss to the Cincinnati Bearcats at Rose Bowl on September 1, 2018 in Pasadena, California.
(Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

Could New York Giants rookie cornerback Darnay Holmes have a more important role than originally anticipated this season?

Ryan Honey

The New York Giants, as of late, have had to make like JAY-Z and utilize an “On to the Next One” mentality in regards to the cornerback position. DeAndre Baker was initially supposed to start alongside free-agent acquisition James Bradberry, but his trip to the commissioner’s exempt list essentially concluded any hope of that possibility. Sam Beal was then going to be the next likely choice until he decided to opt-out of the upcoming season amid the lingering COVID-19 pandemic.

Finally, free agent Ross Cockrell could’ve been an option and the Giants were actually expected to sign him. That deal, however, has since fallen through, with neither party reaching an agreement on the financials.

So with the potential top 3 options now out of the conversation, the Giants may need to go with one of the younger in-house alternatives to man the spot opposite the veteran Bradberry. One of these reserve choices is rookie Darnay Holmes, and while he’s not the favorite to win the job, the first-year player’s role may become expanded amid this defensive backfield dilemma.

The Giants may not initially employ a concrete starter on the outside. I like Julian Love and I’ve previously expressed my desire for him to eventually start, but it may take a few games to reach that point.

Thus, expect the organization to potentially go with a committee-based approach and cycle in numerous guys as part of a rotation, at least at first. With no preseason matchups to see what some of these younger guys could truly bring to the table, the team may need to test some things out in the first few weeks of the regular season, with Holmes becoming a part of that mix.

And if there needs to be a legitimate position battle, there aren’t many guys the fourth-round pick out of UCLA would really be going up against anyway, barring the acquisition of an experienced veteran.

Love will be Holmes’ toughest competitor; he’s versatile, athletic, and intelligent enough to be able to quickly pick up the cornerback role after playing safety for much of last season. Not to mention, it’s not like Love doesn’t possess any cornerback-related experience at all — he was a consensus All-American at that spot during his final year at Notre Dame.

But looking even past that, the following slots on the depth chart encompass Grant Haley and Corey Ballentine, who are more slot corners than anything. Not to mention, both individuals portrayed on-field inconsistencies last year. Haley allowed quarterbacks to complete 82.1% of throws for 342 yards when targeting him in 2019, while Ballentine allowed a 64.3% completion percentage with 393 yards.

If Holmes raises the confidence levels within this mostly new coaching staff, which includes a new coordinator in Patrick Graham and new defensive backs coach in Jerome Henderson, there’s a chance he could earn significant playing time. Of course, that’s always been the case, but the Baker, Beal, and Cockrell situations have truly simplified his path to an increased number of reps, whether a legitimate widespread position battle occurs or if the Giants initially utilize a committee-based approach.

Not only that, but the slated competition for the starting slot corner spot may have also become simpler for Holmes. Baker was never going to take part in that battle prior to the armed robbery charges that could land him a lengthy prison sentence. Nonetheless, Beal was very much going to participate, so subtract one individual from the mix.

You can also take out the eventual starting outside corner, which could be Love in my opinion. That leaves the Giants with a limited number of bodies for the slot, including Holmes, Haley, Ballentine, and additional rookie Chris Williamson.

Just like with Baker’s original spot, the Giants could cycle guys in at the nickel corner position and may need to considering Haley and Ballentine’s inconsistencies and Williamson’s lack of noteworthy talent and experience.

This would thus lead to Holmes potentially earning a number of reps at that spot as well, but he’d need to improve his physical abilities in order to succeed there. During his 2019 junior campaign at UCLA, Darnay only recorded 33 combined tackles over the span of 10 contests.

The Baker, Beal, and Cockrell situations have certainly contributed to a cornerback dilemma for the Giants. Nevertheless, some sort of silver lining has been developed for the young Holmes. The first-year player may now possess an easier path to more playing time during his rookie campaign, whether that time come on the outside or in the form of a slot role.

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