Giants: Who will play slot cornerback in 2023?

new york giants, darnay holmes
Jul 29, 2022; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; New York Giants head coach Brian Daboll shakes hands with cornerback Darnay Holmes (30) after an interception during training camp at Quest Diagnostics Training Facility. Mandatory Credit: Jessica Alcheh-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Giants have had CB Darnay Holmes holding down the slot cornerback position for the last several seasons. However, with the 2023 season right around the corner, it still remains a question as to who will play there this season.

Can Darnay Holmes maintain his starting position?

Although Holmes has been the main guy for the Giants, his play leaves something to be desired; often being targeted by opposing offenses, lagging behind routes, and penalized. In 2022, Holmes led the team in slot snaps (468 snaps played), but had a pass coverage grade of 49.5 and a run defense grade of 28.5, according to PFF. Former Giants safety Julian Love had the second most with 154, and in third Nick McCloud was close behind at 132.

The team does not have many players with experience in the slot outside of Holmes. Deonte Banks and Trey Hawkins are not likely options, as they both fit the mold of prototypical outside cornerbacks and only have played 48 combined snaps lined up in the slot during the 2022 preseason (Banks with 14, Hawkins with 34).

The position could belong to Adoree’ Jackson. However that likely will not be the case for more than a few snaps, as he generally travels with a matchup on the outside. In 2022, he logged 576 snaps at outside corner, and only 63 in the slot. Jackson has never totaled more than 104 slot snaps in a season, which he did during his rookie season with the Tennessee Titans in 2018. Additionally, handing both outside corner spots to rookies could be a great risk.

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Who will play slot cornerback for the Giants in 2023?

In addition to Holmes, the Giants could deploy a “platoon” rotation for the slot, consisting of Nick McCloud and Dane Belton, along with last year’s undrafted free agent signing Zyon Gilbert.

Last year, Gilbert played in three games, earning a 66.6 PFF coverage grade, the best among the players on this list, while also playing the highest percentage of snaps in the slot.

Dane Belton, who played his rookie year with a nagging clavicle injury, is looking to take a huge step forward and hopefully grab the weekly starting job.

For McCloud, last year was essentially his rookie season, as it was his first with significant playing time. In his chances, McCloud held his own and was rewarded with rotational snaps all over the secondary. He is another candidate for a large step forward this season.

If none of these three candidates step up, it will likely be another year of Holmes lacklusterly holding down the fort, until general manager Joe Schoen decides a change needs to be made.