Adoree' Jackson
Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports

With overwhelming needs at various other positions, it’s sort of been overlooked how much help the Giants need in the secondary. Multiple starters are returning but one has just left — safety Julian Love signed a two-year, $12 million deal with the Seahawks late last week. And no one else has come in at this point.

Is general manager Joe Schoen tilting his hands about what he may do in the first round of April’s NFL draft?

Cornerback. Adoree Jackson is a clearcut starter and always has been for the Giants when healthy. Just as long as he stays on the field, he’ll be the No. 1 corner. But the rest of the group is concerning. Cor’Dale Flott and Zyon Gilbert are entering their second seasons. Aaron Robinson and Rodarius Williams are going into their third. And none have proven enough to be worthy of a starting role.

In a perfect world, Flott, a Schoen draft pick, develops into a starter down the road. But there’s no guarantee the 2022 3rd-round draft pick fits the bill. Meanwhile, one of Robinson, Williams, and Gilbert could be a preseason cut.

The lack of talent at this position makes you wonder if the Giants could address the issue early in the draft. It’s become somewhat of a foregone conclusion the Giants draft a receiver at No. 25 overall. But if the cornerback room is barren, Schoen could at least give the idea of drafting a defensive back some thought. Maryland’s Deonte Banks could be available, and the same goes for Penn State’s Joey Porter Jr.

Depending on how the wide receiver market takes shape in the first round, Schoen may need to bite the bullet and find an eventual starting corner.

Slot corner. Darnay Holmes is the lead dog at this position but the Giants could save $2.7 million in cap space by releasing him, per Over The Cap. So he might get dumped come the end of the preseason (if he does not take a pay cut). If Schoen decides to make that move, the Giants could move Flott or Rodarius Williams to the slot, especially if they draft a corner in the first round.

But if he doesn’t cut Holmes, expect the fourth-year player out of UCLA to start in this role, with Nick McCloud a decent depth piece (knows the system and was good in coverage last year, allowing just a 54.2% completion rate when targeted). The Giants could also add to the depth at this position with one of their late-round draft picks (No. 209 overall in the sixth round, Nos. 240, 243, 254 in the seventh round).

Safety. Love tested free agency and landed in Seattle. While he was a good player, he wasn’t the main priority at safety. Xavier McKinney was, and still is, the leader of this group.

McKinney is eligible for an extension this offseason and might get one, but the Giants could hold out and monitor how he plays next season. McKinney’s 2022 campaign was cut in half after he injured his hand in an ATV accident during a bye-week trip to Cabo. So Schoen and Co. might want to see more before extending him. But regardless of his future past 2023, McKinney will be the leader of this defense next season and a potential captain.

As for the other starting safety spot, there are a few options. Not remarkable options, but options nonetheless. Jason Pinnock was a decent late-summer pickup last year and assumed more of a role in defensive coordinator Wink Martindale’s system as the season progressed. He tallied five straight games down the stretch with at least 84% of the defensive snaps. In two different games, he played 100% of the snaps. The coaching staff obviously trusts him, so right now he’s the front-runner to replace Love as a starter.

Dane Belton will compete for the role in training camp and the preseason but has a ton of ground to cover. The former fourth-rounder out of Iowa had an underwhelming 2022 rookie campaign, seeing a stretch of five games where he played a combined total of 15 defensive snaps. In the two playoff games, Belton was on the field for only 10 defensive snaps combined, all of which came in the Wild Card win over the Vikings.

The staff seemingly prefers Jason Pinnock over Belton, so the latter will be a depth piece in this system unless he takes a big year-two leap. If Landon Collins returns and is back on the active roster next year, expect him to be more of a situational defensive back. Collins isn’t your every-down starter like he was during his first stint with the Giants, but can still make plays (such as the pick-six in the playoff-clinching win over the Colts). But it’s hard to imagine he returns.

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Ryan Honey is a staff writer and host of the Wide Right Podcast.