Giants’ rookie corners succeeding opens up substantial financial flexibility

nfl: dallas cowboys at new york giants, deonte banks
Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Giants took a calculated risk this season by putting not one but two rookie cornerbacks on the field. The early returns are promising, with first-round corner Deonte Banks and sixth-round pick Tre Hawkins showing off their athleticism and quick reaction times.

Week 1 and Week 2 Performance Metrics: Numbers Don’t Lie

In their NFL debut during Week 1, Banks and Hawkins together allowed a mere 19 yards but did face three penalties. In the following game against the Arizona Cardinals, they let up just 49 yards and incurred a single penalty.

Deonte Banks: A Study in Versatility and Athleticism

Banks remained a focal point throughout the Cardinals game, drawing six targets and giving up four receptions for 49 yards. His coverage skills were evident as he kept his focus on the quarterback, ready to shift his attention should the ball go in another direction.

Despite his strong showing, Banks found himself tested by tight end Zach Ertz, whose route-running prowess leveraged strength and speed to create separation. While Banks has a skill set that aligns well with covering most NFL receivers, he tends to struggle against bigger opponents who use physicality to their advantage.

Matchup Challenges: Banks Versus the NFL Elite

Marking a player like Marquise Brown is no simple task, but Banks was up to the challenge, shadowing him effectively for most of the game. As the top-ranked athletic corner in the 2023 draft, Banks has lived up to expectations. His next task? Facing the San Francisco 49ers, a team that, although not prone to throwing deep, excels at the running game and is highly effective in short to intermediate passes.

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Tre Hawkins: The Unsung Hero Against Arizona

On the flip side, Hawkins delivered an exemplary performance against the Cardinals. He didn’t yield a single yard and even contributed a pass breakup, nearly intercepting a long third-down throw. In total, Hawkins has been a rock over 91 season snaps, aiding in run defense while effectively neutralizing his assigned receivers.

Experience and Snap Counts: Hawkins Rising to the Occasion

Though Hawkins lacks experience against elite talent, he’s slipped into a major role effortlessly. When the Cardinals fielded only two receivers, Adoree Jackson took snaps out wide from the slot, causing Hawkins’ snap count to drop from 51 to 40 in the latest game.

The Cap Factor: Cost-Efficiency in the Giants’ Secondary

What heightens the excitement around these rookie corners is their extremely cost-effective contracts. Banks carries a modest $2.4 million cap hit this season, while Hawkins sits at an even more budget-friendly $787K. Looking ahead to next year, Banks will have a $3 million cap hit, and Hawkins will register at $952K. This frugality allows the Giants to allocate more funds to other areas, a crucial strategy during a rebuilding phase like the one they’re currently navigating.

Building Confidence: An Electrifying Comeback Fuels Hope

While the Giants’ defense has underperformed across the first two weeks, it’s essential to remember that they’re still a unit in the making. The stunning comeback victory against the Cardinals should provide the young cornerbacks—and the defense as a whole—a confidence boost as they continue to gel and find their rhythm.