Is it too early to call Giants’ CB DeAndre Baker a bust?

John Fennelly
New York Giants, DeAndre Baker
New York Giants, DeAndre Baker

The New York Giants are in the midst of a downturn when it comes to success and the fans have little tolerance for players who are not up to snuff or doing their jobs. That would include prized rookies such as first round selection DeAndre Baker, a shutdown cornerback out of Georgia who the Giants traded three picks for the right to draft.

So far, he’s been unimpressive. Not only is he not the shutdown corner the Giants’ thought he was, his football acumen appears to be fairly low. This week, after getting schooled by the Dallas Cowboys’ receivers, Baker admitted that he did not really have a working grasp of the Giants’ defensive scheme.

“Just the plays and everything like that,” Baker told about what he needed to hone up on. “The playbook. Just knowing the plays. Knowing what I need to do. Knowing my assignment.”

Here’s two plays that illustrate where Baker is at. On one, Amari Cooper simply shoves him out the way. On the other, Cooper races by Baker into the middle of the field where he catches a slant and takes it into the end zone.

The Giants are concerned. It is very possible that Baker has his reps reduced noe that the Giants will finally have Sam Beal back in the fold. Head coach Pat Shurmur has said Baker will continue to start and will do so this week against the Jets.

“I think he’s learning how to be a pro. I’ve seen great improvement in him. The fact that he’s self-aware enough to know that there are areas that he can get better, I think is a good thing. I think he’s made great progress in terms of learning how to be a pro and doing things in this league, because it’s different than college. There’s a lot that goes into it, and he’s made great progress. The fact that he’s self-aware enough to know that he has to continue to improve tells me that he will improve.”

The Giants aren’t letting go of the idea that Baker is a No. 1 corner in this league in the making. They can’t. It’s too early in the process to do so But numbers don’t lie and neither does the human eye. It’s clear he’s not anywhere near what the had hoped.

“He’s coming along,” said defensive backs coach Everett Withers this week. “Coming along. Guys progress as they progress and they work as they work. I think early, he didn’t quite understand the sense of urgency and detail in the things that you have to do. Sometimes when you’re in college, you go play corner on one side and that’s all you do. You just go play that one guy. So, he had a lot of details he had to work on.”

Translation: Baker is in over his head.

“As a first-year player, to me, it’s a season-long deal anyway. I think he just needs to continue to grow and understand concepts more than anything else. You know, in college, it’s like memorization. You learn this and I do this. Here, it’s you have 18 things that affect that one thing you just learned. So, he has to learn the concepts, and he’s getting better at it. He’s working at it…Just understanding the concepts that go with that particular coverage, technique, whatever it is that go with it, because there are 18 things that other teams can do to that coverage and you have to be able to match that. So again, I think it’s a season-long process. Obviously, there’s a sense of urgency for him to get it as fast as he can. I think he’s working at it.”

Every team has draft busts and Baker, who did not surrender a touchdown in his final year at Georgia, had all the qualities teams look for in a shutdown corner coming out. But the NFL is a different game. Talent alone doesn’t always get you to where you need to be. Hopefully, he can turn things around and become a productive player for the Giants.