New York Giants: The youth in the Giants’ secondary should excite the fan base

New York Giants, Darnay Holmes, Julian Love, Jabrill Peppers, DeAndre Baker, Xavier McKinney, Corey Ballentine
New York GiantsNew York Giants, Darnay Holmes, Julian Love, Jabrill Peppers, DeAndre Baker, Xavier McKinney, Corey Ballentine

The New York Giants are in the middle of an entire roster rebuild, and their secondary’s age attests to that.

From an overhead view, it is quite clear that the Giants are in the middle of a rebuild. Looking at how old every player is should be a good indication of what stage they are in, and with James Bradberry being the oldest of the bunch at just 26 and recent free-agent signing, we can conclude they’re in stage two of three.

The first round of premium free-agent signings indicates that the Giants feel they can win games but aren’t just quite at the position to be a playoff-contending team. General manager Dave Gettleman signed the majority of free agents this off-season to three-year contracts, and the second year of their deal will likely be the most influential and significant.

They will clear cap space in 2021 and hopefully find an elite defender to add to the defense. I would imagine it would be a star pass rusher, considering the lack of talent the Giants currently hold at the outside linebacker position. However, Defensive coordinator Patrick Graham is used to scheming a pass rush, and he will utilize both safeties and linebackers to keep opposing offenses on their toes.

Nonetheless, let’s take a look at how young the secondary is and what that means for the Giants.

Jabrill Peppers: 24 years old

Peppers is one of the rising players for Big Blue, having posted solid numbers in 2019. He features in the strong safety role and will likely rotate with Xavier McKinney in 2020. His athleticism allows him to stick with tight ends in coverage but is also solid against the run, and we should expect to see more of that next season. At just 24 years old, the Giants could have their staple at the position for the next few seasons.

Xavier McKinney: 21 years old

McKinney was the Giants’ second-round pick this past NFL draft, and what a selection it was. As the top-rated safety on the board, the Giants gained a sure-fire tackler and turnover machine. He logged four forced fumbles and three interceptions last season as a junior for Alabama. Legendary head coach Nick Saban had nothing but good things to say about McKinney, and he should bring versatility and game speed to a defense that severely lacks playmakers.

DeAndre Baker: 22 years old

DeAndre Baker struggled significantly in his rookie campaign, but he got better as the season went on. Reports of him sleeping in meetings and not understanding the defensive playbook entirely emerged last season, which was extremely problematic given the state of the team. New head coach Joe Judge will not allow Baker to fall into those same tendencies, so expect him to be on his best behavior. Graham plays man-coverage a majority of the time, which will benefit Baker, who was playing in zone and off by coverage for most of 2019 with James Bettcher. Playing out of position and against his strengths was a significant reason why he failed to develop correctly last year.

James Bradberry: 26 years old

Bradberry is the oldest of the bunch, and he signed a three-year deal with the Giants this off-season. He is a quality corner and was the second-best available on the market, aside from Byron Jones. The Giants gained a corner that can mirror and contain opposing number one wideouts and follow them into the slot. Expect him to be all over the field and replacing Janoris Jenkins with youth and quality.

Julian Love: 22 years old

Love is the most underrated player of the bunch, having played only the last few games in 2019. He was the supplement to Jabrill Peppers’ hip injury that prematurely ended his campaign, and Love stepped in and played admirably in his absence. Love posted a 65.5 completion rate against, and only allowed one touchdown on 29 targets. He was a solid tackler close to the line of scrimmage and played all over the defense. He has experience at strong safety, free safety, and in the slot, which will make him an asset moving forward.

Corey Ballentine: 24 years old

Ballentine is a bit old for being a second-year player in the NFL, and he struggled heavily last year. However, he was a late-round selection was always expected to be a developmental piece. He posted a 64.3 completion rate against an allowed for touchdowns, which was extremely troubling. He played only 27% of defensive snaps and will likely stick in the slot with Darnay Holmes and Grant Haley. Youth is on his side and will allow him more time to grow into his role.

Sam Beal: 23 years old

Beal has been injured for the last two seasons, barely making an impact since his inception as a supplemental draft pick in 2018. Last year, Beal played in just six games, allowing a 76.2 completion rate. At just 23 years old, he has plenty of time to develop and grow, but going into his third season in the NFL is a bit problematic. He must take a big step this year, or he could be in danger of being cut.

Grant Haley: 24 years old

Grant Haley, formally out of Penn State, is a great tackle close to the line of scrimmage. The problem is, he is quite inadequate in coverage, making his role in the slot a bit shaky. The Giants drafted Darnay Holmes to supplement his inability to cover speedy receivers, but his ability against the run still makes him valuable. I anticipate him playing in situational spots and maybe early downs when the probability of an offense running the ball is high.

Darnay Holmes: 21 years old

Holmes, who was drafted in the fourth round in the most recent NFL draft, was coined as the best nickel corner available. While he only played in the nickel during the Senior Bowl, his size at 5-foot-10 and 195 pounds attest to his ability to match up again speedy NFL receivers in the slot. Darnay will compete with Haley, Love, and Ballentine for starting reps, but he has the athleticism and tenacity to earn a starting spot on the Giants’ defense quickly.