Who will man the New York Giants’ cornerback spot opposite James Bradberry next season? At the moment, there are a few options.
There’s no denying the star-like abilities James Bradberry portrayed in his inaugural season in East Rutherford. The former Carolina Panther, who signed a three-year, $43.5 million deal with the Giants in 2020, was one of the league’s most successful at the position and arguably the best signing Dave Gettleman has made in his tenure as Big Blue’s general manager.
But even with Bradberry’s production during what was his first-ever Pro Bowl season, the Giants still tied for 16th in the league with 237.9 passing yards allowed per game. That statistic makes it obvious that the other starting cornerback spot wasn’t exactly the most stable. Isaac Yiadom, who started 10 games for the Giants, wasn’t extremely consistent, which proved to be detrimental in the defensive backfield.
The Giants must locate a reliable second cornerback, one who’s going to fill a specific role while Bradberry follows opposing teams’ top wideouts.
So what are the current options?
Roll the dice with Yiadom again
As was previously noted, Isaac Yiadom started 10 games for the Giants last year while appearing in all 16, of which he allowed opposing quarterbacks to complete 61.7% of throws for a 13.0 yards-per-completion rate, 8.0 yards-per-target rate, six touchdowns, and a combined 120.1 rating.
No, Yiadom didn’t impress, but that doesn’t mean he can’t grow and improve in 2021. Not to mention, keeping him in this role and implementing continuity in the secondary could be beneficial for his hopeful development. Continuity is also generally crucial for the defensive backfield, given chemistry is of sheer importance.
In regard to his current contract, Yiadom has one year remaining before he ultimately becomes an unrestricted free agent. The Giants would save nearly $1 million in cap space if they were to cut him, but rolling the dice and keeping him around wouldn’t be all too expensive.
Enhance Darnay Holmes’ role
Darnay Holmes is still young and was more of a slot corner throughout his 2020 rookie campaign after the Giants drafted him in last year’s fourth round. However, he impressed during parts of his inaugural pro season and could further grow and take that next step in training camp.
In 12 games (five starts), Holmes allowed quarterbacks to combine for just an 87.2 rating and actually had the highest number of targets without allowing a single touchdown pass out of the league’s rookie defensive backs, according to Pro Football Focus.
Darnay Holmes has the most targets without a TD allowed among rookie DBs (52)
— New York Giants (@Giants) February 11, 2021
Like Yiadom, Holmes would additionally be beneficial for continuity in the New York defensive backfield, given he already possesses experience playing alongside Bradberry, Logan Ryan, and Jabrill Peppers.
Finally provide Julian Love with a concrete role
Since the Giants drafted Julian Love out of Notre Dame in 2019’s fourth round, he’s participated in numerous roles. He initially didn’t earn much playing time until Jabrill Peppers went down with a transverse process fracture late in 2019, which led to Love starting the final five games at strong safety. Then, in 2020, he was more of a situational safety in Patrick Graham’s defense, considering the alternative talent within the secondary.
If he remains at safety, he won’t possess a significant role, and the Giants won’t benefit if they don’t constantly make use of his on-field potential. That’s why he may be a notable option for the second cornerback spot.
Love definitely could succeed in this starting role as well. Despite the fact he’s been more of a safety in the pros, he’s versatile and was a consensus All-American corner for the Fighting Irish. With his high ceiling, there’s a chance Love may thrive in this position.
Move Logan Ryan over to corner
The Giants cannot waste Xavier McKinney’s potential given the fact they drafted him with a valuable pick last year (No. 36 overall). If he impresses in training camp (which he likely will), the Giants could start him at free safety and move Logan Ryan over to corner.
Ryan sports a noteworthy amount of on-field versatility and would still be a very reliable weapon in the defensive backfield even if he’s in a different role than last year. Not to mention, he’s been a cornerback for much of his career anyway and is greatly trusted by the Giants coaching staff to do whatever it asks — Ryan was on the field for 100% of the defensive snaps in 12 separate games last season.
Utilize the market
The Giants could possess a number of stopgap options in free agency, barring any sort of franchise tag or contract extension.
Players who are set to be available include Xavier Rhodes (Colts) and Ronald Darby (Washington), and either could be inked to a short-term deal.
If the Giants then draft a corner in the second or third round this year, a signed veteran could assist in his ultimate development.