The New York Giants seemed to have found a diamond in the rough this offseason. The Giants have suffered from a poor pass defense over the past two seasons. In 2017, the Giants’ secondary allowed 252.4 passing yards per game (ranked 31st in the NFL). In 2018, the Giants’ secondary allowed 252.8 passing yards (ranked 23rd in the NFL), showing minimal to no improvement.
This offseason, New York fixed that. The Giants drafted three defensive backs in the 2019 NFL Draft (four if counting Sam Beal). The secondary has been completely rebuilt. In the midst of their rebuild, the Giants found their gem in the sixth round of the 2019 NFL Draft.
Not much is typically expected of sixth-round rookie out of a small school like Washburn. But the Giants’ rookie Corey Ballentine has surpassed all expectations.
Sixth-round rookies like Corey Ballentine are not typically looked at as impact players. They are usually meant to be depth pieces, backups who could maybe one day compete for a starting role. Take the Giants’ last sixth-round picks under Jerry Reese for example:
In 2017, New York drafted Adam Bisnowaty who has played in one career game and is no longer with the Giants. The Giants’ 2016 sixth-round pick was Jerrell Adams, a tight end who played for the Giants for only two seasons. He is now a member of the Arizona Cardinals.
Point is, the Giants are used to wasting late-round picks on camp bodies. This is changing under Dave Gettleman. Gettleman has made plenty of questionable and controversial decisions since assuming the role of general manager. But his late-round draft picks do not fall into the controversial category.
2019 sixth-round pick Corey Ballentine is the best example of this so far.
Overcoming Extreme Adversity
The odds were clearly not in Corey Ballentine’s favor. The Giants have missed on sixth-round picks for years. The expectations were not high, but Ballentine has exceeded all expectations in a very short time.
A late-round draft pick from a small school had some speculative fans writing him off as a camp body on draft day. Others were quick to support the cornerback and point out his true talent despite being a small-school, late-round pick.
The night after the draft, tragedy struck. Corey Ballentine found himself in the wrong place at the wrong time. He was injured with a gunshot wound and his long-time friend and teammate Dwane Simmons was fatally shot. May he rest in peace.
This life-altering moment will have a lasting impact on Corey Ballentine and on his NFL career. Ballentine has someone extra to play for. He will play to honor the memory of his fallen friend, Dwane Simmons. Ballentine discussed this during training camp:
Ready to get emotional? #Giants Corey Ballentine admits he’s now in a way trying to live out two NFL dreams, in honor of late friend Dwane Simmons. “I feel like I’m kinda doing it for both of us.” Ballentine is considering a tattoo in Simmons’ honor. Heartbreaking. pic.twitter.com/8XK3BbYbEc
— Pat Leonard (@PLeonardNYDN) July 28, 2019
Dwane Simmons will look down upon Corey with pride. This summer, throughout OTA’s and training camp, Corey Ballentine has been an impressive and impactful player. He has improved as a player through training camp and now proven that he has legitimate starter potential in the preseason.
In training camp, Ballentine has earned reps with the first-team defense after making a multitude of starter-level plays. Ballentine has picked off multiple passes in training camp, including rookie Daniel Jones’s first interception of camp.
One common attribute on display with Ballentine’s interceptions is his athletic ability. On all of his interceptions, Corey is making a leaping grab and snatching the ball away in mid-air. This majestic interception a jump-ball in the end zone is a perfect demonstration:
— Emory Hunt (@FBallGameplan) August 3, 2019
Corey Ballentine’s great summer lead to some high anticipation amongst Giants fans heading into the first week of preseason. Ballentine totally delivered. The rookie saw a lot of playing time and had himself a great game.
Corey’s acrobatic interception ability was on full display against the Jets. Towards the end of the third quarter, the Jets decided to test Ballentine’s coverage on a deep ball down the right sideline. Corey would have none of that, staying stride for stride with the receiver, turning his head around to locate the pass, and leaping up to make an acrobatic interception.
Rookies came to play. pic.twitter.com/qgZqzUxFEl
— New York Giants (@Giants) August 9, 2019
This was one of the Giants’ best plays of the game on Thursday night. But it was not the only highlight play that Ballentine made. Corey Ballentine also got the opportunity to return kicks against the Jets. He fielded one kickoff seven yards deep in the end zone but took it out anyway and ended up gaining about 40 yards on the return.
Corey Ballentine was not even a lock to make the roster in April. Now, Ballentine is one of the most exciting players on the Giants’ young new defense. He has true starter potential and should see plenty of playing time in the regular season.