The New York Giants have invested heavily in their secondary over the past two years. The Giants drafted three defensive backs in each of the last two NFL Drafts. They spent a first-round pick on DeAndre Baker, a second-round pick on Xavier McKinney, and two fourth-round picks on Julian Love and Darnay Holmes.
New York has a lot of potential in its young secondary, however, it is not yet a position of strength. In particular, the slot cornerback is a position of weakness for the Giants. Heading into 2020, there is a positional battle brewing at the nickel cornerback position, with a few young cornerbacks ready to compete. Who will start at slot cornerback in 2020?
For the majority of the 2019 season, Grant Haley started at slot cornerback for the Giants. Haley’s performance was highly inconsistent, though. The young Penn State product struggled immensely in coverage. Haley allowed an 82.1% completion percentage in coverage last year, along with 342 yards and 1 touchdown.
Haley showed minimal improvement in coverage after an inconsistent rookie season in 2018. However, Grant has been consistently efficient as a tackler. In 2019 the cornerback recorded 43 combined tackles, 4 tackles for loss, and only 3 missed tackles.
Grant Haley is an efficient run-defender. But his lack of production in coverage will likely take him out of the running for the starting role in 2020.
Julian Love had an impressive rookie season in 2019. Love played cornerback in college and was considered for the Giants’ nickel corner job last season, however, he ended up playing safety instead. Julian Love was very impressive as a safety and made a strong impact, starting in 5 games while Jabrill Peppers was out with injury.
It seemed like Love would be the starting safety alongside Peppers in 2020. That was until the NFL Draft. New York selected the talented safety Xavier McKinney in the second round this year. Julian Love could stick around at the safety position, giving the Giants plenty of flexibility and versatility in their secondary. However, he could make the move back inside to slot cornerback and receive more playing time.
Julian Love has the coverage skills and experience to compete for the slot cornerback job. However, his impressive play at safety as a rookie will likely keep him in that role this season.
The newest option for the Giants at slot cornerback is rookie Darnay Holmes out of UCLA. New York selected Holmes in the fourth round of the 2020 NFL Draft. Darnay Holmes was not a slot cornerback in college- he was an excellent outside cornerback. But he is a bit undersized for the outside, so he projects better as a nickel cornerback in the NFL.
Darnay Holmes was impressive working as a slot cornerback at the Senior Bowl. He dealt with an injury in his last collegiate season, but he still showed plenty of promise and potential. The Giants may not want to put Holmes out there as a rookie immediately, however, the upside is clearly there. He is a talented and athletic cornerback that could be a difference-maker on the Giants’ defense for years to come.