At first glance, the New York Giants seem to have one of the best secondaries in the NFL after the acquisition of Tennessee Titan Adoree Jackson. However, that didnâ€™t stop them from attacking the CB position in the 2021 NFL draft, adding UCF corner Aaron Robinson and Oklahoma State DB Rodarius Williams.
With a healthy blend of veteran leadership and youth, the Giants have a budding secondary that could end up being one of the best in the league given consistency and continuity.
However, letâ€™s take a look at each individual position and see what the Giants have to offer and what Patrick Graham plans to do in his second year as defensive coordinator.
Do the New York Giants have a top-5 defense on paper?
CB 1: James Bradberry
James Bradberry established himself as one of the best corners in the NFL last season, walking away with three interceptions and allowing a 56.4% completion rate. He gave up 454 yards, with a max of 70 in one game, which came against the Pittsburgh Steelers in week one. He gave up three touchdowns in total, two of which came against Pittsburgh, but locked down the rest of his opponents for the remainder of the season. Top players like Allen Robinson only posted 14 yards on him, proving that heâ€™s capable of covering the best receivers in the NFL.
Bradberry is an established CB1 who fits perfectly in Patrick Graham’s system. While they used more zone coverage last year because of issues at CB2, I expect them to focus on man coverage next season, and Bradberry will undoubtedly thrive in that system.
CB 2: Adoree Jackson
The Giants spent $39 million to acquire Jackson for the next three years. Jackson has had his fair share of struggles in the past, and this contract might even be considered overzealous. He only played in three games last year and one postseason matchup in the Wild Card. He was absolutely torched for a majority of the sample size, giving up 220 yards and three touchdowns during that time span. However, he was coming off a serious knee injury and forced his way back onto the team. When healthy, Jackson is one of the best man coverage corners in the NFL.
Back in 2018, Jackson posted a 69 overall coverage grade, per PFF, but thrived in run-defense. He did allow 823 yards and five scores, but one anomaly in week 11 against Indianapolis represented 172 of those yards.
When looking at the statistics, Jackson has fantastic abilities but sprinkles in a few poor performances that can impact games. I believe he is a perfect fit at CB2 alongside Bradberry, and having a coordinator like Graham should help him tremendously.
Slot: Darnay Holmes/Aaron Robinson
The Giants now have two physical and aggressive slot corners in Darnay Holmes and Aaron Robinson, their third-round pick this year. Holmes deserves another crack at the starting job, in my opinion. After struggling with injuries last year, Holmes missed a bit of developmental time, but he stood out in the win over Seattle, picking up an interception and five passes defended. I love his aggressiveness in the slot, as he contains a fearless mentality in stopping the run and crossing routes to tight ends.
Robinson, on the other hand, is also a stout nickel corner who possesses strong man coverage traits and aggressiveness at the point of attack. Robinson was supposed to attend Alabama but ended up transferring to UCF, where he earned more playing time. He is routinely coined as a quick, physical, and athletic player who fits the Giants’ system. All of their moves recently suggest they will be transferring to a more man coverage-based scheme.
DEPTH: Love, Yiadom, Beal
Any good secondary has adequate depth, and the Giants have Julian Love, Isaac Yiadom, Sam Beal, and Rodarius Williams, their sixth-round pick this year.
Yiadom had a few decent performances, but he knows the system and took a massive pay cut to stick with the Giants this year. Love has displayed versatility as a safety and corner, and he can play multiple positions as a utility option if need be. He is an incredibly valuable piece to this defense. Beal, on the other hand, is a likely cut candidate, given he hasnâ€™t played in a few seasons, and he’s set to earn $1.1 million this year. If they release him, they will save about 600K.
S: Logan Ryan
The influence of veteran Logan Ryan canâ€™t be discounted, as he brings experience and leadership to this group of young defensive backs. Ryan made the transition to safety last season with the Giants and walked away with a 70.1 overall grade, but I consider him the glue of this entire unit. He helped Graham tremendously get players into position and disguise coverages to confuse quarterbacks. He immediately thrust himself into the conversation as one of the best safeties in the NFL, and as one of the best tacklers on the team, Ryan can also move up into the box and make plays.
S: Xavier McKinney
Xavier McKinney missed the entire first half of the 2020 season due to a fractured foot but made tremendous progress as the second half moved along. In the final game of the season against the Dallas Cowboys, McKinney posted eight combined tackles, one tackle for a loss, and one interception. He was the stand-out defensive performer in the victory and showed the Giants exactly what they need to see to feel confident in him moving forward.
McKinney is a future in the secondary for a Big Blue, as he can move up into the box at strong safety but also play free safety in the deep secondary. He has solid closing speed and is fearless going into tackles. He occasionally wraps up a bit high, but that is nothing head coach Joe Judge canâ€™t fix.
S: Jabrill Peppers
One of the Giants’ strongest points on defense is strong safety Jabrill Peppers, who had his best season in 2020. Peppers is an extremely aggressive run stopper but has developed nicely as a coverage safety as well. Last year, he set career highs in tackles with 91, tackles for a loss with eight, sacks, 2.5, and recorded an interception.
I expect Peppers to take a step forward in 2021 with more experience in the scheme and in the final year of his rookie contract. His development has been exceptional for the Giants, and they needed a player to lock down the SS position after letting Landon Collins walk in free agency. So far, that move seems to be paying off.