New York Giants have two capable slot cornerbacks to rely on in 2021

aaron robinson, new york giants

The New York Giants have invested a lot of assets into their secondary over the last few years. They have spent numerous draft picks on guys like Julian Love, Xavier McKinney, Aaron Robinson, Darnay Holmes, and others. They have also made some big signings like James Bradberry, Logan Ryan, and Adoree’ Jackson. One could argue that the Giants have the best trio of starting safeties in the NFL. But they do not just have depth at safety.

The Giants also have solid depth at slot cornerback where two players could be competing for the starting job. Darnay Holmes, entering his second season, is looking to keep his job as the starting slot cornerback. But the Giants also went ahead and drafted Aaron Robinson in the 2021 NFL Draft, another slot cornerback that could get hungry for the starting job.

Darnay Holmes stats and highlights

Darnay Holmes was an impressive rookie slot cornerback who did not allow a touchdown in coverage during the 2020 season. Holmes was targeted in coverage 52 times and let up a fair amount of completions, but none in the end zone. In fact, he had some impressive pass breakups that prevented touchdowns, like the one below:

Darnay Holmes made the switch to slot cornerback in the NFL after playing outside during his collegiate career at UCLA. There were some ups and downs for the rookie, but Holmes flashed enough potential for the Giants to feel confident that they have a starting-level player long-term. Darnay finished the year with 5 passes defended 1 interception, 0.5 sack, and 30 combined tackles.

In 2020, Darnay Holmes fit nicely into Patrick Graham’s zone-coverage defensive scheme. He has good instincts and a quick reaction time. Darnay struggled at times to cover receivers in man coverage across the middle of the field. That is where Aaron Robinson comes in.

Aaron Robinson stats and highlights

Aaron Robinson’s playing style is far different from Darnay Holmes. Darnay fits better in a zone scheme while Aaron fits better in a man-coverage scheme. Patrick Graham has stated in interviews that the Giants are looking to run more press-man in 2021 than they did last season. Aaron Robinson is a physical press-man slot cornerback that will help allow Patrick Graham to make that scheme the focus of his defense.

Robinson’s aggressive playing style also gives him the ability to compete on the outside as well. Arguably ARob’s most impressive trait, though, is his ability to make an impact in run defense. Aaron Robinson posted an 80+ PFF run-defense grade in each of his last two seasons at UCF.

Regardless of who gets the start in the slot, the Giants have a good problem on their hands. They have two talented players that might be deserving of a starting role. That means that they have a lot of talent at the slot cornerback position and, of course, quality depth.

New York Giants: One young corner could end up being a building block for the future

aaron robinson, new york giants

Nobody anticipated the New York Giants spending so much of their resources on the secondary this off-season. Ranging from the signing of Adoree  Jackson on a three-year, $39 million deal to spending multiple draft picks on corners, they have completely upgraded a unit that performed well in 2020 despite deficiencies.

Having gone through a rotation at CB2, finally landing on Isaac Yiadom, who opposing teams picked on throughout the campaign, they decided they needed a corner who could thrive in press, man coverage. That corner is Jackson, a former Tennessee Titan who represents an aggressive style defender that can match up again speedy and more shifty receivers.

However, the Giants also added a nickel option in UCF stand-out Aaron Robinson. Robinson will compete with second-year player out of UCLA, Darnay Holmes, for the starting slot corner job.

Brad Gagnon of Bleacher Report believes Robinson can develop into a solid starter:

With most of the team’s early 2019 and 2020 picks also expected to be big factors as the Giants wrap up a rebuild, that leaves cornerback Aaron Robinson as the one to watch for the future.

The UCF product will likely have to compete with sophomore fourth-round selection Darnay Holmes for a slot role in support of presumed starters James Bradberry and Adoree’ Jackson, both of whom make big money.

The smooth and physical Robinson has the length and instincts to turn into a strong starter, but rookie corners almost always need time, and he lacks the speed to compensate for the work he’ll have to do early on.

Robinson is another aggressive corner who plays tough man coverage. With Patrick Graham going in a different route compared to his 2020 scheme, we should expect to see more cover-1 and cover-0, relying on heavier blitz packages and more man coverage.

The Giants traded up in the third round to snag Robinson, who the Philadelphia Eagles and Dallas Cowboys eyed. The 5’11”, 186 pound senior had a round-2 projection by NFL.com. They noted his strengths as a combination of size and speed as a nickel. He has an effective punch when given the greenlight to press and adequate foot quickness and agility. His weaknesses remain diagnosing routes and having top-end speed.

Given the role he will play, the Giants might’ve landed themselves a day one impact player in the secondary, and providing competition for Holmes can only bring out the best of both players.

There is a very good chance the Giants have one of the best defenses in football after bolstering the secondary and pass rush this off-season. Hopefully, Robinson will have a successful career with Big Blue, as they look for athletes with tremendous upside that can also make an immediate impact.

New York Giants: An intriguing competition brewing at slot cornerback

aaron robinson, new york giants

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

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.

Aaron Robinson

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.

Conclusion

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.

The New York Giants’ secondary is loaded with talent entering the 2021 season

New York Giants, James Bradberry, logan ryan

The New York Giants defense was one of the league’s best in the 2020 season. Entering 2021, the Giants’ defense has only gotten better. The Giants defense allowed only 22.3 points per game last season, giving them a top-ten unit. Yet, New York still went into the offseason and added even more talent to their defense.

The Giants’ secondary was the strength of the team last year. Cornerback James Bradberry looked like a blanket on the field, consistently shutting down opposing receivers. New York also enjoyed a dynamic safety tandem of Jabrill Peppers and Logan Ryan. However, there were a couple of holes in the Giants’ secondary.

Opposite of Bradberry, New York had a revolving door at their second outside cornerback position. Corey Ballentine, Ryan Lewis, and ultimately Isaac Yiadom saw plenty of reps as the starter. The Giants recognized that position as a weakness and went out to fix it this offseason. Along with a new CB2 in Adoree’ Jackson, the Giants also added depth at cornerback and created an interesting competition at slot cornerback. The New York Giants have loaded their secondary with talent heading into 2020.

The Giants’ talented secondary

James Bradberry, Logan Ryan, and Jabrill Peppers were the stars of the Giants’ secondary in 2020. They also enjoyed the presence of a quality utility player in Julian Love. Xavier McKinney was also impressive at the end of the season coming off of an injury that kept him sidelined for the majority of his rookie season. Take all of this talent, now combine it with plenty more.

Adoree’ Jackson enters the Giants’ lineup as their new CB2. Jackson will allow the Giants to transition back into their more man-press-heavy coverage scheme. 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. The Giants got a bonafide CB1 (when healthy) to play CB2 for them on the outside.

Darnay Holmes was an impressive rookie slot cornerback who did not allow a touchdown in coverage during the 2020 season. He will compete alongside new rookie Aaron Robinson out of UCF in the slot. A-Rob is physical and should see a good amount of playing time inside along with Holmes.

Then, of course, Xavier McKinney is entering his sophomore season. Xavier flashed great potential at the end of the 2020 season and will see plenty of playing time in 2021. He could have a major breakout covering the back end of the Giants’ defense.

On top of these talented starting-level players, the Giants added a lot of quality depth to their secondary. Isaac Yiadom started 10 games last year and will be a solid depth piece at cornerback. The Giants also added Rodarius Williams at the back end of the 2021 NFL Draft, another physical man-to-man corner.

The New York Giants took one of their strongest units and made it even stronger in the 2021 offseason. It was hard enough for opposing quarterbacks to move the football against the New York Pass Defense in 2021. The New York Giants’ talent-loaded secondary is going to make Sundays even more challenging for opposing quarterbacks in 2021.

New York Giants: 3 rookies who could stand out in mini-camp

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The New York Giants will be hosting their minicamp this upcoming weekend from May 14 to May 16, which will include 22 players, including six draft picks, three undrafted rookies, and a max of five tryout players. So far, the Giants have already confirmed they will bring 30-year-old receiver Kelvin Benjamin in for a workout, kicking the tires on the veteran who was formally a Dave Gettleman draft selection years ago.

However, the Giants have a few stellar young players to work with on both sides of the ball from their most recent draft class, but there are a few undervalued options who could make an impact in their first year in the NFL. Let’s take a look at a few prospects who might have an extended future with the Giants.

Three New York Giants rookies who could stand out in mini-camp:

1.) Elerson Smith

The Giants utilize their fourth-round selection on Northern Iowa edge rusher Elerson Smith. Nobody knew who Smith was before his surprise selection, but he was a Senior Bowl stand-out who showed incredible production in 2019. Smith is a 6’6″, 252-pound pass rusher, who racked up 14 sacks, 14 QB hurries, 21.5 tackles for a loss, five forced fumbles, and two blocked kicks during the 2019 season.

Smith is a superior athlete who had the highest vertical of any defensive end in the 2021 draft class at 41.5 inches.

According to the “Relative Athletic Score” metric, Smith ranked 18th out of 1333 DE’s measured since 1987, showing a superior stature in that category. With sufficient speed off the line of scrimmage, I view Smith as a mismatch rotational option for the Giants this upcoming season. Against heavy-footed offensive tackles, Smith has the speed and power to overwhelm them on the outside or dashing to the interior with jab step moves.

Camp will give us our first look at Smith, and hopefully, he progresses nicely as he looks to add a bit more muscle mass onto his frame but also refine his technique at the next level.

2.) Aaron Robinson

Another exciting young rookie is UCF nickel corner Aaron Robinson, who was formally an Alabama transfer. Robinson is a press, man coverage corner who will push Darnay Holmes in the slot for reps. That should be an exciting position battle between two feisty players.

Robinson isn’t only a stellar football player but is also a great teammate. Head coach Joe Judge pointed out his ability to energize players around him and how he creates positive relationships with his fellow teammates. That is exactly the type of character attribute the Giants are looking for, and it fits perfectly with the structure of their defense and represents the type of player they seem to be attracted to.

I believe Robinson has a bright future ahead of him as a third-round selection, and the Giants were so high on him they felt the need to trade up and snag him before Dallas or Philadelphia could make their move. He’s a player to keep an eye on during camp and could even win the starting job in the slot potentially.

3.) Brett Heggie

The Giants signed UDF Brett Heggie out of Florida, and while he went undrafted, he has some solid, tangible traits to consider as we approach minicamp. Heggie is a 6’4″, 310-pound interior defender with experience at center and offensive guard. Having been teammates with Kadarius Tonye, Heggie has routinely faced off against quality opponents in the SEC. In 2019, he started 12 games, including eight left guard and four at right guard. In 2020, Brett moved to the interior at center, starting all 12 games at the position. He has desirable size for the NFL as a center but lacks functional strength at times and is lackluster with his fundamentals. The Giants likely view his physical traits as potential upside, but he will need extensive coaching to iron out some of his bad tendencies and habits.

While I don’t see Heggie contributing day one, he could be a long-term project and could end up being valuable down the line as a reserve or potential starter at center in the future.

New York Giants trade up and select CB Aaron Robinson with 71st overall pick

aaron robinson, new york giants

The New York Giants selected UCF Cornerback Aaron Robinson with the 71st overall pick after trading up five slots to leapfrog the Dallas Cowboys and several other teams.

The Giants previously traded back in the draft in the first round, acquiring another fifth-round pick from the Chicago Bears, which they utilized to make the jump and land Robinson, who has a few great traits to translate to the NFL level.

Robinson is most likely going to compete with Darnay Holmes as in the slot with the Giants, who have a strong secondary after acquiring Adoree Jackson for three years, $39 million this off-season.

However, this is an interesting move since the Giants desperately needed more interior offensive lineman, especially for a right guard spot that remains a weakness after letting Kevin Zeitler walk in free agency.

Some had Wyatt Davis out of Ohio State being the selection, given the Giants spent additional draft capital to move up. However, Robinson has fantastic athletic attributes and could end up being a premier slot interior corner with the right coaching.

Having fantastic pieces around him and Patrick Graham to help him adjust to the NFL level, Robinson should be able to make an impact in his first year as a third-round pick. Robinson had 10 pass breakups in 2020, showing off solid coverage skills.

Per Draft Network:

A 4-star recruit that originally committed to Alabama, Aaron Robinson transferred to UCF and became the featured slot cornerback in 2019 and 2020 for the Knights. While he has some experience playing out wide, his best fit at the next level is likely in the slot. Robinson is a versatile defender that can function in both man and zone coverage and he will make the run defense better with his ability to fill and defend the D-gap. Overall, he’s a physical player with quick feet and sufficient athleticism. The concerns with Robinson at the next level are his modest coverage instincts, ordinary ball skills, and proving the tackler he was in 2020 is what he will be moving forward and not the inconsistent finisher he was in 2019. Robinson has the ability to become a featured slot corner in the NFL, but he will need to become more sure of himself in coverage and play the game with better angles.