By Michael Stewart/@golferbad
Introduction: This is part 2 of 5 in a series showcasing the top 5 positional battles we should expect once training camp begins. Our last article focused on the center position and this article will move to the other side of the ball at cornerback. With the free agent signing of cornerback James Bradberry, the Giants have resolved one cornerback position, but who will play the other cornerback position once the dust settles after training camp pre-season games? It was a foregone conclusion that DeAndre Baker had that spot nailed down, however; Baker’s current dilemma involving assault charges are still pending and it’s unclear what his future is not only with the Giants, but with the NFL as the league could look to suspend him once the legal process has concluded. So for now let’s look at the other candidates:
- Sam Beal: Beal was a Giants supplemental pick and the Giants surrendered a 3rd pick to select him. Beal has yet to put it all together as injuries have been his biggest adversary thus far in his brief career. This is a very important training camp for Beal as he will have worthy competition as GM Dave Gettleman and Head Coach Joe Judge added depth at the cornerback position via the draft and free agency. If Beal wants to be the starting cornerback for the Giants in 2020, he not only needs to stay healthy, but he needs to showcase his talents that convinced the Giants of drafting him in the first place.
- Corey Ballentine: Ballentine had an up and down season in his rookie campaign as he was asked to play the slot corner position; which was clearly not his best option. Once Ballentine moved to the outside, he shows signs of hope as he appeared to be comfortable on the outside. With the future of DeAndre Baker remaining a Giant unclear, Ballentine will have plenty of opportunity to show the Giants coaching staff that he can be a reliable and productive cornerback for the Giants.
- Julian Love: Love was drafted as a cornerback out of Notre Dame, but quickly transitioned over to safety after the injury to Jabrill Peppers in 2019. Love performed well at safety and by all accounts could remain there forming a solid threesome along with Peppers and 2020 draft pick Xavier McKinney. However; with Bakers career in question and the lack of production and uncertainty from Beal and Ballentine in 2019, the Giants might consider giving Love an opportunity at outside corner. Love has the diversity to play any position in the secondary and that versatility will allow Love ample opportunity for more playing time.
- Darney Holmes: On day three of the draft, the Giants selected Darney Holmes in the 4th round. At first the pick was not met with overall jubilation. However; as the days followed many football experts and ex NFL Hall of Fame cornerbacks like Deion Sanders and Rod Woodson applauded the pick proclaiming that the Giants got a steal in the 4th round. Holmes is projected to compete for the slot cornerback position; which was arguably their weakest position in the secondary as Grant Haley and Corey Ballentine both struggled immensely all season. Holmes has all the intangibles and attributes you want in a corner and his high Football IQ doesn’t hurt.
- Chris Williamson: Williamson was taken in the 7th round for the Giants and had a solid college career at Minnesota. Williamson is not expected to secure a starting spot for the Giants, however; the Giants coaching staff like his makeup and what he can bring to the team. Williamson could serve as a solid backup corner and also contribute on the special teams; which is one of the reasons why Head Coach Joe Judge selected him.
- Montre Hartage: Hartage is another solid corner brought in by Gettleman and Judge to provide depth and competition among the cornerbacks; while competing for a spot on the roster and provide special teams help as well. Hartage is not projected to claim a starting spot, however; having talent along your depth chart can only help a team in case of injuries throughout the season. This position should be fun to watch as it unfolds during training camp.
Final Thoughts: The corner position for the Giants was once considered a very weak link on the defensive side of the ball. However; over the last couple of seasons through free agency and the draft, Dave Gettleman has changed all that and now the cornerback position has talent, youth and especially depth; which was not evident a few years back. New Defensive Coordinator Patrick Graham will bring his own brand of style to the Giants defense; which does involve the cornerbacks to be more than just defenders against the pass. Look for creative blitzes packages that will involve corners and also the safety position. The Giants may not have added a bona fide pass rusher this off season, however; don’t think for a second that they will not be productive as a team in the sack department.