The New York Giants defense was a top-ten unit in the NFL last season. New York’s prominent defense was led by cornerback James Bradberry, defensive linemen Leonard Williams, linebacker Blake Martinez, among other formidable defenders. The real strength of the Giants’ defensive unit, though, was its secondary.
James Bradberry, Logan Ryan, Jabrill Peppers, Julian Love, and a few other talented defensive backs were featured on the Giants’ suffocating 2020 defense. In 2021, though, the team has added even more talent in its secondary, taking the group to the next level. These additions were necessary as the NFC East loaded up on offensive weaponry this offseason.
The Dallas Cowboys have one of the best wide receiver groups in the NFL, featuring Amari Cooper, CeeDee Lamb, and Michael Gallup. Terry McLaurin of the Washington Football Team was already establishing himself as one of the game’s best receivers. Then the team went out and paired him with Curtis Samuel, creating a dangerous one-two punch. The Philadelphia Eagles also upgraded at the wide receiver position, selecting 2020’s Heisman Trophy winner Devonta Smith in the first round of the 2021 NFL Draft.
The NFC East stockpiled talented wide receivers this offseason (the Giants included). Thankfully, the Giants have the talent in their secondary necessary to shut down these loaded groups of wide receivers.
How the New York Giants will shut down the NFC East’s WRs
James Bradberry on the primary receivers
James Bradberry is a true shutdown cornerback. In 2020, he was tasked with taking out opposing teams’ primary wide receivers every week. When matched up with Cowboys’ standout receiver Amari Cooper, Bradberry proved to be a tough corner to beat. In his two matchups against the New York Giants last season, Amari Cooper totaled 41 and 23 receiving yards, two of his lowest totals on the season, with 0 touchdowns.
The Philadelphia Eagles’ leading receiver in 2020, Travis Fulgham, had a decent outing against New York in Week 7, totaling 73 yards, before being shut down in Week 10 with a total of 8 yards. Fulgham scored 0 touchdowns in both outings.
The NFC East wide receiver that gave New York the most trouble in 2020 was Terry McLaurin. Terry totaled receiving performances of 74 and 115 yards against the Giants along with 1 touchdown. Part of this could have been the fact that McLaurin lined up in the slot rather frequently, moving him away from James Bradberry.
Adoree’ Jackson on the secondary receivers
CeeDee Lamb of the Dallas Cowboys also enjoyed one of his best performances of the season against the Giants. New York managed to hold him to only 43 yards in Week 17, but he did erupt for 124 yards in Week 5 (a season-high). The Giants were comfortable with the elite James Bradberry continuing as their primary cornerback in 2021. But the team recognized a need to upgrade their second cornerback position.
To do this, the Giants went ahead and signed Adoree’ Jackson in free agency. Adoree’ Jackson will pair alongside James Bradberry as the team’s second outside cornerback, though the talent drop-off might not be as steep as some expect. Since 2018, Adoree Jackson has the fourth-highest coverage grade when lined up outside according to Pro Football Focus with a grade of 85.6.
Teams like Dallas and Washington have stellar one-two punches at the receiver position. The Giants now also have a formidable first and second line of defense at cornerback to combat these receivers.
Who will take on the slot receivers?
CeeDee Lamb was a good example of a team’s second receiver gashing the Giants’ defense due to their lack of a competent second cornerback. However, Lamb played primarily out of the slot in his rookie season. Adoree’ Jackson will be able to match up well with the likes of Curtis Samuel on the outside in Washington. But Jackson might not face off against Lamb that often.
Instead, Darnay Holmes, entering his second season, will continue as the team’s primary slot cornerback. Now, in addition to Holmes, the Giants have added another talented nickel corner in Aaron Robinson. The Giants drafted Robinson in the third round of this year’s draft. Both Holmes and Robinson are young, talented members of this secondary with the physicality to compete with any of the slot receivers in this division.
While the NFC East saw a major influx of talent at the wide receiver position, the New York Giants saw an influx of talent in their secondary. The Giants have the talent necessary to counteract the division’s receivers in 2021.