Third-year cornerback Grant Haley isn’t a lock to make the New York Giants final roster, but is he even worth keeping around anyway?
With the pads on and the regular season right around the corner, we’re finally receiving a glimpse of what the New York Giants may look like once their Week 1 matchup against the Steelers comes along. This past Friday amplified that feeling, being that the team took part in an intrasquad scrimmage at the Quest Diagnostics Training Center.
In-game situations are likely the best look these coaches will get from their players, and given the circumstances, the more of those looks they can acquire, the better. This mostly new staff, led by the young and intense Joe Judge, missed out on much of the offseason due to the lingering COVID-19 pandemic and didn’t experience the normal in-person rookie camp, minicamp, or OTAs.
Although not as productive or convenient as preseason games, these intrasquad scrimmages will still teach witnesses a lot, especially in regards to who should make the final roster and who shouldn’t. The latter group will specifically possess a number of individuals, and unfortunately for Grant Haley, the third-year cornerback could be finding himself in that very unit.
According to numerous Giants beat reporters who were at the scene of Friday’s scrimmage and were able to live-tweet — something they couldn’t do during normal practices — Haley struggled mightily in coverage. The Giants were hoping to see improvement out of him in that area, but that development seemingly hasn’t come to fruition.
But it bodes the question: is it worth keeping Haley on the final roster when preseason and training camp activities are all said and done?
Within an honest opinion, there are sides to either argument.
The pros to keeping Haley
I’ve said it once and I’ll say it again: depth is extremely crucial at any position, but especially in the defensive backfield. Even if Haley doesn’t win a starting job — and it doesn’t seem like he will at this moment in time — he could provide that needed depth in a backup role.
And amid the situation the Giants secondary is going through, the team will certainly require that depth to succeed. DeAndre Baker is unlikely to take part in the team’s Week 1 contest with his pending armed robbery case, and it’s becoming more likely that he won’t wear a Giants uniform again. Baker was placed on the commissioner’s exempt list last month.
So with the Giants missing one of their starters from last year, they may not have a concrete option for Baker’s old role in the defensive backfield, which could cause them to go with a committee-type approach. This is where Haley may prove to be of importance on this team, as that could be a way for him to find a number of defensive reps if other corners begin to struggle.
It’s also very much unclear how the starter in the slot will fare. As of right now, it could be Julian Love, Corey Ballentine, or rookie Darnay Holmes — the latter of which has impressed many in camp thus far. Considering he’s likely the most talented and versatile of the trio of aforementioned individuals, Love could end up winning the job at Baker’s old spot or at least be the lead guy in the cycle of individuals who find playing time there. That would leave Ballentine or Holmes for the slot role if Haley doesn’t effectively improve.
For one, Ballentine wasn’t exactly consistent last year, allowing opposing quarterbacks to complete 64.3% of throws for 393 yards and four touchdowns when targeting him. Thus, we don’t know for sure if he’ll really be the most efficient option in the slot in 2020.
Holmes, on the other hand, is still just a rookie, and one that didn’t undergo the normal offseason that first-year players usually go through prior to the regular season. He may be impressing right now, but it’s still unclear if he’ll be a competitive match for opposing offenses when the 16-game slate commences. These scrimmages give the best look possible in regards to what these guys can do, but they still don’t possess the intensity that regular-season matchups contain. Holmes could thus still struggle come this September, at least initially.
So if Ballentine and Holmes both prove to be unreliable options, the Giants would at least benefit if they employed Haley in comparison to if they didn’t. Reinforcements in that area of the field could mean everything for Big Blue, and Haley would be able to at least provide that.
Not to mention, he carries a crucial trait for the slot: physicality. Last year, Haley finished 11th on the team with 43 combined tackles. This was also good for sixth among defensive backs (fifth if you don’t count former Giant Michael Thomas, who was more of a special teams ace).
The cons to keeping Haley
There’s no sugar coating it, Haley has struggled for much of his two years in the NFL when it comes to coverage. The Giants were looking to improve in that area of the game this year, considering they finished 28th in the league last season with an average of 264.1 passing yards allowed per game. Haley’s inconsistencies in that department would set the Giants back if he were to acquire playing time.
Throughout his 2018 rookie campaign (10 games, nine starts), Haley allowed opposing quarterbacks to complete 63.9% of throws for 298 yards and four touchdowns when targeting him. His coverage skills then declined in 2019 (15 games, three starts) — he allowed a completion rate of 82.1% with 342 yards and one score.
I understand physicality and aggression, which he sports, are important, but in a passing league like today’s NFL, you need consistent coverage skills as a corner. That’s why the Giants went out and signed James Bradberry, a guy who’s succeeded for the most part in that facet.
Since Haley doesn’t exactly portray those coverage skills in a consistent and reliable manner, he may be the odd man out during roster cuts. When it comes to Haley’s direct competitors, Love is versatile, Ballentine is still young and developing, and Holmes may have a bright future in this league. This could all lead to the Giants showing Haley the door prior to the regular season’s commencement, and my guess is that they will.