Darnay Holmes has impressed in camp thus far, but will the New York Giants ultimately start him at the slot corner position?
Prior to Monday, there was a chance the New York Giants were going to consider rookie Darnay Holmes for the starting corner role opposite James Bradberry. With what he’s been able to do thus far during his inaugural NFL training camp — and a weird and unusual annual period at that — it would’ve only been fitting for the Joe Judge coaching staff to give him a look. After all, the top guy for the role, at the time, was Corey Ballentine, someone who portrayed inconsistencies from the slot last year.
But now that the Giants have acquired veteran defensive back Logan Ryan on a one-year deal, it doesn’t seem like Holmes will possess any shot at a starting role in what was originally DeAndre Baker’s spot. It’s not set in stone that the Giants will utilize Ryan at that spot given his ability to play in multiple positions, but in all likelihood, he’ll be the guy lining up opposite Bradberry.
This move would then essentially pencil in starters at corner, free safety, and strong safety, with Bradberry, Ryan, Julian Love, and Jabrill Peppers respectively manning each of those roles. Nonetheless, the slot corner position would still be without a concrete starter.
Holmes could then certainly find himself in the group of potential options, and while fans may want to see him start, there are definitely pros and cons to the Giants ultimately giving him the nod right away.
Why it could be a good decision
In this specific position battle, you’d see Holmes go up against Ballentine and Haley as the main competitors for the job. You could say guys like Montre Hartage, Dravon Askew-Henry, and rookie Chris Williamson may also be in the mix, but Holmes, Haley, and Ballentine are the only realistic possibilities.
At the moment, Holmes might possess an edge over his two main competitors due to the fact that Haley and Ballentine’s respective reputations encompass inconsistent play and coverage-related struggles. During his second NFL season in 2019, Haley allowed opposing quarterbacks to complete 82.1% of throws for 342 yards and one score when targeting him.
Not to mention, Haley seemingly isn’t developing in that area of the field thus far in camp. Beat reporters have pointed out his struggles in coverage, which doesn’t make him a lock for this year’s final roster.
Ballentine contains the same issues, having allowed quarterbacks to finish with a 64.3% completion percentage, 393 yards, and four touchdowns when targeting him through the air last year.
Despite us not having seen Judge head coach a game yet, it’s reasonable to believe the top guys will play, regardless of experience. If Holmes can prove to this mostly new staff, which includes a new defensive coordinator in Patrick Graham and defensive backs coach in Jerome Henderson, that he can portray more advanced coverage skills than his two main competitors, him winning the job may not be a longshot.
The Giants would thus end up having at least someone who can fare well in coverage from the slot, a crucial aspect in a pass-happy league such as the NFL.
New York would also be easing Holmes into a potential role as one of the two starting outside corners some time down the road. Having him start on the outside right now could overwhelm him and ultimately hinder his development — it’s the same concept as to why it wouldn’t have been smart to start Andrew Thomas at left tackle prior to the Nate Solder opt-out.
Why it could be a bad decision
I understand I mentioned it’s reasonable to think Judge’s coaching staff would start Holmes if he proves to be a better option than both Haley and Ballentine, regardless of the differing experience levels. Nonetheless, general inexperience is still an issue.
Haley and Ballentine have at least worked within an NFL secondary before, even if it was indeed with James Bettcher in the coordinator role instead of Graham.
Chemistry and the ability to work with one another is key among defensive backs, and Haley and Ballentine carry experience performing with guys like Love and Peppers. Holmes, on the other hand, has never worked in legitimate game situations with any of the slated starters.
Having said that, throwing Holmes into the fire right away might not end up becoming beneficial for his development, which is why it may make more sense to initially start one of the other two options. Holmes could thus receive the Daniel Jones treatment from last year, in a sense that he would sit on the bench and learn how to operate in a pro-level defensive backfield before taking on a more advanced role.
This man carries a chance to be a legitimate starting cornerback at some point down the road, and it will be in the organization’s best interest not to screw up or hinder his on-field evolution. That’s why a backup or special teams role may be the better decision here, at least initially.