The New York Giants had one of the best defenses in the NFL in 2021. They allowed only 22.3 points per game and 237.9 receiving yards per game (ESPN). The Giants had an excellent secondary loaded with young talent, mixed in with some wise and efficient veterans.
One of the most talented youngsters in the Giants’ secondary was rookie slot cornerback Darnay Holmes. Darnay showed plenty of promise in his rookie 2020 campaign, yet the Giants still went into the 2021 NFL Draft and added another potential starter at slot cornerback, Aaron Robinson.
Now the Giants have a problem, but a great problem to have. The Giants’ problem is that they have so many talented defensive backs and not enough starting positions to give out. Aaron Robinson and Darnay Holmes are two highly-talented, young slot cornerbacks, yet there is only one slot cornerback position.
Aaron Robinson vs. Darnay Holmes
The Giants’ 2020 fourth-round pick, Darnay Holmes, was an outside cornerback during his collegiate career at UCLA. But he impressed scouts at the Senior Bowl playing slot cornerback in 2020 and ultimately made the transition to slot cornerback full-time with the Giants. As a fourth-round pick, Holmes exceeded all expectations in his rookie season.
According to Pro Football Focus, Darnay Holmes had the most targets without a touchdown allowed among rookie defensive backs (52). Darnay also added an interception to the stat sheet in his rookie season along with 5 passes defended, 30 combined tackles, 3 pressures, and 0.5 sack. Granted, he was not lock-down in coverage, as quarterbacks did complete 75% of their passes against him in coverage. However, he did manage to keep receivers out of the end zone and had a few breakups in the end zone.
Darnay Holmes was not perfect in his rookie season, but he did flash great potential. New York felt the impact when Darnay missed time with an injury. He played in only 12 games this season, however, the Giants struggled to cover the slot when Darnay was absent.
The Giants traded up in the third round of the 2021 NFL Draft to select UCF cornerback Aaron Robinson. This pick initially surprised Giants fans that expected the team to target an offensive lineman in round three. However, fans quickly changed their tune when they found out what a special player the Giants got in Aaron Robinson.
Aaron Robinson is a great fit for the Giants because he has the versatility and physicality that they prioritize. Robinson was efficient in college playing on the outside and the inside, though he is expected to play in the slot primarily with the Giants. Robinson also posted an 80.0+ run-defense grade in his final two collegiate seasons (PFF).
Robinson’s physicality doesn’t just show up in the run game. ARob also has the ability to play bump-and-run coverage. For an inside cornerback, Robinson is impressive when playing press-man. The Giants have made it a point of emphasis this offseason to find press-man cornerbacks. The Giants are looking to switch their scheme back to a man-heavy defense. Aaron Robinson is a perfect fit for the revised scheme that Patrick Graham is looking to install.
Ultimately, while there is only one starting slot cornerback position to give out, the Giants have two very capable defensive backs that should both see the field a lot in 2021. Darnay Holmes earned playing time with an excellent rookie season. Aaron Robinson has the talent to start as well. Expect to see Patrick Graham get creative while he uses these two cornerbacks in a variety of ways, getting both of them on the field as frequently as possible.