Giants’ James Bradberry draws gushing review from former Pro-Bowl corner

New York Giants, James Bradberry

When the New York Giants signed James Bradberry in 2020 to a three-year, $43.5 million deal, nobody expected him to emerge as one of the best corners in football. This past season, Bradberry logged a 79.9 overall coverage grade, per PFF, allowing 454 yards and just three touchdowns all season long. After Week 1 against the Pittsburgh Steelers, where he allowed two scores, he gave up just one the rest of the campaign, showcasing an unbelievable developmental step under coordinator Patrick Graham.

Bradberry has established himself as one of the best man coverage corners in football, and the Giants are looking to take their defense in a new direction after relying on zone coverage far too often last year due to weakness at CB2. According to SIS, the Giants ran man coverage 23% of the time by season’s end, after Graham operated in the cover-1 formation (reliant on man coverage) 50% of the time as the DC for Miami in 2019.

With the signing of Adoree Jackson, the Giants now have a fantastic duo of corners who can expose matchups on a weekly basis. Bradberry man-marked some of the best receivers in the game last year, including Allen Robinson, DK Metcalf, Mike Evans, and others. He limited Robinson in Week 2 to just 14 yards, picking up an interception and nearly two more.

One former Pro Bowl corner had great things to say about Bradberry. D’Angelo Hall, a three-time Pro-Bowler and 14-year veteran, stated on NFL Network that Bradberry is the third-best CB in the NFL, behind Xavien Howard of Miami and Jalen Ramsey of Los Angeles.

“When he put on the No. 24, with the Carolina Panthers I was like ‘hold up … is this Josh Norman 2.0?’” Hall said. “But when James Bradberry moved to the Giants and played more man-to-man coverage he really showed me he is an elite (corner) in this league.

“I got to see him go twice last year against (Washington wideout) Terry McLaurin, who I think is a dog. Bradberry rose to the occasion every single time.”

Providing him with even more assistance with the signing of Jackson, Bradberry will have the luxury of playing on an island, facing off against more refined route runners and receivers with size. Jackson will take on speedy pass-catchers in a more physical role. Jackson prefers press, man coverage, while Bradberry is more of an off-ball man coverage corner.

Excellent secondary play will also help the Giants’ pass rush, which they overhauled this season with the addition of Azeez Ojulari, Elerson Smith, Ryan Anderson, and Ifeadi Odenigbo.

New York Giants: James Bradberry a true shutdown cornerback

New York Giants, James Bradberry

The New York Giants‘ defense was one of the best in the NFL last season. New York relied on the strength of its top-tier secondary, headlined by Pro Bowl cornerback James Bradberry. The Giants signed Bradberry in the 2020 offseason and the acquisition was instantly a home-run.

James Bradberry and the New York Giants agreed to a three-year, $43.5 million contract last offseason. This made Bradberry one of the highest-paid cornerbacks in the NFL and he met those expectations. James Bradberry earned his first career Pro Bowl selection in 2020 but was snubbed from the official All-Pro teams. Regardless, Bradberry established himself as a true shutdown cornerback and will continue to fit the bill in 2021.

James Bradberry stats and highlights

For the first four years of his career, James Bradberry spent his Sundays chasing around some of the best wide receivers in the NFL as a member of the Carolina Panthers. Playing in the NFC South, Bradberry had to face the likes of Julio Jones, Calvin Ridley, Michael Thomas, Mike Evans, and Chris Godwin twice per year.

James Bradberry gained valuable experience during his time in Carolina. He brought that experience to New York last year and dominated nearly every matchup he faced. James Bradberry had a breakout year in 2020. He set a new career-high with 18 passes defended, tied for the second-most in the NFL and only two behind Miami’s Xavien Howard for the league lead (Giants.com).

While 2020 was looked at as a breakout season for James Bradberry, he has quietly been one of the best boundary corners in the league for his entire career. James “Blanket” Bradberry leads the NFL in forced incompletions since 2018 with 42 total, putting him ahead of other stud corners like Carlton Davis and Stephon Gilmore (PFF).

The New York Giants have now paired James Bradberry with another stud cornerback on the outside. Adoree’ Jackson was signed this offseason to play opposite of Bradberry in 2021 and beyond. This will be one of the league’s best cornerback duos. Being surrounded with greater talent could lead to an even greater season from James Bradberry in 2021. Opposing wide receivers will be on lock all year by “The Blanket Bradberry.”

Giants’ DC Patrick Graham gives key hint in how defense will change in 2021

New York Giants, Patrick Graham

Based on the personnel decisions made this off-season by the New York Giants, it is clear the defense will be making a shift toward a more man-coverage-based scheme. In 2020, the Giants had a significant weakness at CB2, forcing them to supplement with zone coverage and additional help from the safety positions.

Big Blue quickly rotated through a variety of corners, including Corey Ballentine, Ryan Lewis, and Isaac Yiadom. The Giants traded a seventh-round pick for Denver Broncos’ former third-rounder, Yiadom, just before the start of the season, and he was asked to play a significant role despite lacking experience in the system and minimal in-person training.

However, the Giants recognized that void and found a key player to help upgrade the cornerbacks unit, signing former Tennessee Titan Adoree Jackson to a three-year, $39 million deal.

The New York Giants added a specific play in Jackson to their DB unit:

While some may believe the Giants overpaid for Jackson, he fits a specific mold that provides them the ability to expose matchups during the 2021 season. Defensive coordinator Patrick Graham stated that to win in the NFL, you have to play more man-coverage defense, which opens up the ability to send additional blitzers and get more creative with your packages.

When looking at the pairing of James Bradberry and Jackson, you see two different corners who can play against specific types of receivers. For example, Bradberry thrives in off-ball man coverage, walking down quality route runners that lack high-end speed. That doesn’t mean Bradberry lacks the makeup speed to keep up with faster players, but he simply plays with more finesse and relies on his fundamentals more than his athleticism. Bradberry has impeccable vision and spatial awareness, allowing him to capitalize on his fundamentals and stay on the hip of receivers.

Jackson is a bit different with his style, playing a more aggressive press coverage role. Against faster, more agile receivers on the outside, Jackson can use his quick-twitch abilities to jam and then trail adequately. Jackson has shown great makeup speed in the past, especially in scenarios where he falls behind by a step or two. He can quickly make up ground, which is a positive capability at the NFL level with some receivers capable of pulling away at any given moment — see Tyreek Hill.

With two corners capable of playing man coverage, it will open up the defense in their 3-4 scheme, giving Graham more flexibility with his outside linebackers and safeties. He can send additional blitzers to overwhelm offensive lines and put immediate pressure on quarterbacks, which will curate turnovers and mistakes.

Personally, I love this new style of defense that Graham intends to deploy, as it will rely heavily on a quality pass rush, which is why the Giants went out and added four new options to the unit. The additions of Azeez Ojulari, Ifeadi Odenigbo, Elerson Smith, and Ryan Anderson should all play a significant part in the season ahead. That is not even to mention the return of Oshane Ximines and Lorenzo Carter.

New York Giants: Defensive backs return in leadup to mandatory minicamp

New York Giants, Jabrill Peppers

The New York Giants had a notable position group that wasn’t around for voluntary OTAs – the secondary.

The secondary has, of course, been touted as one of the most improved areas of the team this season. The Giants are now relying on the duo of James Bradberry and Adoree’ Jackson at corner, but also add new draft picks who will compete for a spot.

At safety, they have a promising group that includes Jabrill Peppers, Logan Ryan, and a healthy Xavier McKinney. However, despite the promising nature of this secondary, Giants fans have had to wait to see it in action on the field.

That will change as the timeline moves from voluntary OTAs to mandatory minicamp.

Based on official team sources, it looks like the defensive backs have turned up to team facilities for upcoming practices. That includes Bradberry, Jackson, as well as Peppers.

What should we expect during minicamp?

The Giants are mostly set at safety and it doesn’t look like there’s any big changes coming to the rotation, but the cornerback spot is less certain. While we already know which players are filling the top spots, there’s a lot more uncertainty behind them.

The Giants drafted Aaron Robinson in the third round and Rodarius Williams in the sixth – both of them play cornerback, so expect to see them in competition with returning players Darnay Holmes and Sam Beal.

The team has a number of options when it comes to their backup cornerback lineup, so this might be the most important part of the secondary to pay attention to during minicamp.

The Giants also brought in two other defensive backs from the Titans, Chris Milton and Joshua Kalu. Given the influx of additions, don’t be surprised if not everyone that comes into offseason training as part of the secondary makes it onto the final roster. The Giants aren’t exactly short on talent at the position, and minicamp is likely to be more competitive than OTAs.

How the New York Giants can maximize James Bradberry and Adoree Jackson in 2021

New York Giants, James Bradberry, logan ryan

New York Giants defensive coordinator Patrick Graham is known for his unique blitz packages and incorporating man coverage into his scheme. In 2020, the lack of talent at CB2 forced the Giants to play more zone coverage, deploying their safeties to fill weaknesses in the defensive backfield.

Players like Logan Ryan, Jabrill Peppers, and Xavier McKinney filled voids that Isaac Yiadom and Ryan Lewis left in coverage while leaving James Bradberry to fend for himself on an island.

Bradberry ended up being one of the most essential pieces to the Giants’ defense in 2020, recording 14 pass breakups and locking down some of the best receivers in the NFL. For example, in week two against the Chicago Bears, Bradberry enjoyed 33 coverage snaps, limiting Pro-Bowl receiver Allen Robinson to 14 yards and recorded an interception. He consistently dominated quality pass-catchers, including Amari Cooper, DK Metcalf, and DeAndre Hopkins.

Opposing offenses started to recognize how good Bradberry was playing and overpowered the ball to the Giants’ weak spot. Gettleman and Co. realized it was a position they must upgrade this off-season.

How did the New York Giants solve their void at CB2?

In need of a quality corner to pair with Bradberry, general manager Dave Gettleman and the coaching staff elected to sign Adoree Jackson to a three-year, $39 million deal, formally of the Tennessee Titans. A close friend to Logan Ryan, Jackson brings an aggressive, man coverage style to the Giants, which fits exactly what Graham likes to deploy. Having played 50% cover-1 in 2019 with Miami dolphins, Graham seems all but set to return to his roots, utilizing a creative blend of blitzes and relying on his corners to hold it down in coverage.

Maximizing both James and Adoree should not be hard, but if you look into their styles of play, you can adequately match them up with specific types of receivers.

Bradberry plays a more finesse style, utilizing a trail technique and off-ball man coverage to read routes and break quickly. He doesn’t have elite make-up speed, so he’s better against premier route runners with average downfield speed. Jackson, on the other hand, is an aggressive corner with incredible make-up speed, making him a suitable match-up against go-route receivers.

For example, if you have a player like Jalen Reagor or Michael Gallup on Dallas, Jackson will do a solid job limiting their downfield play-making abilities, given his physical style of play and ability to make up ground on deep balls.

Taking a look at Bradberry, he allowed 10.3 yards per reception in 2020, and Jackson gave up 12.3 yards per reception in 2019, his last healthy season. This indicates that QBs are targeting Jackson on deeper routes, as he allowed 479 yards over 16 games, including just two touchdowns. He hosted the best coverage grade of his career with an 82.5, but is also an adequate tackler and is not afraid to get dirty in the run game.

I believe the combination of Bradberry and Jackson could end up being one of the premier cornerback duos in the NFL. If Graham utilizes them properly, which I imagine he will, they can really extract the most potential out of both players, allowing the pass rush to do their job and get after the quarterback sufficiently.

The New York Giants will have one of the best cornerback duos in the NFL in 2021

New York Giants, James Bradberry

The New York Giants‘ secondary was one of the team’s biggest strengths in 2020. Veteran cornerback James Bradberry led New York’s defensive backs to a stellar season in his first year with the team. However, the unit was not perfect and there was still a hole to fill in the 2021 offseason.

Opposite James Bradberry, the Giants struggled to find a consistent cornerback on the outside. CB2 was a major hole on the Giants’ defense. The Giants filled that hole in March when they signed veteran cornerback Adoree’ Jackson.

The Giants signed Adoree’ Jackson to a three-year deal worth $39 million. He will be the starter opposite of James Bradberry and will give the Giants one of the best cornerback duos in the NFL this season.

James Bradberry stats and highlights

Many fans felt like James Bradberry was an All-Pro Team snub in 2020. He was selected to his first career Pro Bowl, but fans felt like Bradberry’s performance warranted a more prestigious reward.

In 2020, James Bradberry locked down everything deep. The Giants basically had an extra safety on the field with Bradberry at cornerback. On targets 20+ yards downfield, James Bradberry allowed 0 touchdowns and totaled 3 interceptions (T-2nd) according to PFF.

But Bradberry was not just a beast on the deep ball. He was also a true lockdown cornerback that could go one-on-one with any wide receiver. James Bradberry forced 14 incompletions in single coverage, tied for the most in the NFL in 2020 (PFF).

Bradberry set a new career-high with 18 passes defended, which was tied for the second-most in the NFL and only two behind Miami’s Xavien Howard for the league lead (Giants.com). PFF also ranked James Bradberry as the fifth-best cornerback in the NFL entering the 2021 season.

Adoree’ Jackson stats and highlights

It came as a shock when the Tennessee Titans released cornerback Adoree’ Jackson. The Titans cleared some valuable cap space but parted ways with one of the NFL’s best outside cornerbacks. When healthy, there are not many boundary corners better than Adoree’ Jackson.

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. This grade has Jackson on a list with stars like Jaire Alexander, Richard Sherman, and Stephon Gilmore. PFF also ranked Adoree’ Jackson as the twelfth-best cornerback in the NFL entering 2021.

Like James Bradberry, Adoree’ Jackson is elite when shutting down deep balls. According to Pro Football Focus, since 2017, Adoree’ Jackson has forced more incompletions on passes 20-plus yards downfield (18) than he has receptions allowed (14).

Adoree’ Jackson has played in only 14 games over the past two years. When he is on the field, Jackson is an elite outside cornerback. The Giants are hoping to see Adoree Jackson stay healthy in 2021 and shut down opposing wide receivers alongside James Bradberry.

New York Giants: James Bradberry is an under-appreciated playmaker

New York Giants, James Bradberry

The New York Giants enjoyed having one of the top defenders in the NFL on their team last season. In 2020, James Bradberry led the way to make New York’s defense a top-ten unit in points allowed per game. Bradberry was a shutdown cornerback for the Giants that put together an incredible statistical season.

James Bradberry stats and highlights

The New York Giants made a splash in the 2020 NFL offseason when they signed cornerback James Bradberry. The Giants and Bradberry inked a three-year, $43.5 million deal. New York’s new cornerback spent the first four years of his career with the Carolina Panthers, where he was drafted by current Giants general manager Dave Gettleman.

During his time in Carolina, James Bradberry was a great cornerback. Since 2019, Bradberry has forced the third most incompletions in the NFL with 27 forced (PFF). Since 2018 Bradberry has forced 42 incompletions, the most incompletions among all cornerbacks (PFF). He has had an excellent career, but Bradberry took his game to another level during his first season in New York.

In 2020, James Bradberry locked down everything deep. The Giants basically had an extra safety on the field with Bradberry at cornerback. On targets 20+ yards downfield, James Bradberry allowed 0 touchdowns and totaled 3 interceptions (T-2nd) according to PFF.

But Bradberry was not just a beast on the deep ball. He was also a true lockdown cornerback that could go one-on-one with any wide receiver. James Bradberry forced 14 incompletions in single coverage, tied for the most in the NFL in 2020 (PFF).

Despite leading in all these statistics and shutting down opposing wide receivers week in and week out, James Bradberry did not make an NFL All-Pro team. He did make PFF’s All-Pro Team, though. Bradberry set a new career-high with 18 passes defended, which was tied for the second-most in the NFL and only two behind Miami’s Xavien Howard for the league lead (Giants.com). PFF gave the 27-year-old cornerback the recognition he deserved, but it is time for the rest of the NFL to put some respect on James Bradberry’s name.

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.

Should the New York Giants pursue CB A.J. Bouye in free agency?

The New York Giants are entering a crucial roster-building offseason. The Giants were just one win away from making the playoffs in 2020, despite finishing with a 6-10 record. New York was close to getting over the hump and turning things around. However, they ultimately fell short.

The Giants do not seem to be far off of a good team. If New York can add a few extra pieces this offseason, they could establish themselves as playoff contenders in 2021. But there are a few holes for New York to patch up before the season rolls around. One area of weakness that the Giants need to address is their second cornerback position.

James Bradberry was one of the best cornerbacks in the NFL in 2020. But opposite of Bradberry, the Giants had a revolving door of cornerbacks starting on the outside. Whether it was Cory Ballentine, Isaac Yiadom, Ryan Lewis, or Julian Love starting at the Giants’ second cornerback position, the team had to endure inconsistent play from that position all season long.

There are a few solutions for the Giants to pursue at the cornerback position. According to Ralph Vacchiano of SNY, it is unlikely the Giants are going to draft a cornerback with the eleventh overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft. If New York is going to upgrade their cornerback position, it seems likely that they would do it through free agency.

Fortunately, this year’s free-agent cornerback market has a fair amount of veteran talent for the Giants to pursue. One additional cornerback has recently been added to the market: A.J. Bouye. The Denver Broncos cut Bouye this week after one season with the team. Now 29-years-old, A.J. Bouye is a veteran cornerback that is still playing at a high level and could be a target for the Giants in free agency.

AJ Bouye stats and highlights

A.J. Bouye was, at one point, one of the best cornerbacks in the NFL. Bouye had a career year as a member of the dominant 2017 Jaguars defense. That season, Bouye made his first Pro Bowl appearance, totaling 6 interceptions, 18 passes defended, and 56 combined tackles.

Since 2017, Bouye has struggled to return to that elite form. But he is still a savvy veteran playing at an above-average level. In seven games this season with the Broncos, A.J. recorded 6 passes defended and 23 combined tackles. Bouye was targeted in coverage 35 times in 2020, allowing 23 receptions for 273 yards and only 2 touchdowns.

Putting A.J. Bouye opposite of James Bradberry would give the Giants one of the best cornerback duos in the NFL. Those two cornerbacks plus the Giants’ trio of talented safeties in Logan Ryan, Jabrill Peppers, and Xavier McKinney, could shape into a top-five secondary in the NFL.

The Broncos saved $13 million in cap space when they cut A.J. Bouye. His last contract was lucrative, but now, it is expected that Booye’s next contract will see a significant pay decrease. If the New York Giants can sign A.J. Bouye to an affordable contract, he could be the player to take the defense to the next level.

New York Giants: Can Julian Love be the answer at CB2 in 2021?

New York Giants, Julian Love

The New York Giants had a great defense last season, much to the surprise of many. One of the weak spots of the unit, however, was CB2. James Bradberry was elite as a lockdown CB1 for the team, but on the other end of the field was a revolving door of cornerbacks.

This has resulted in many believing that Giants would look to address that position over the offseason, but it might not be as pressing of a need as we thought.

The multiple players the Giants put out there at CB2 continuously underwhelmed for much of the season. However, their last guy ended up being the best guy. In Week 17 against the Dallas Cowboys, the Giants decided to give 2019 fourth-round pick Julian Love a try, and it worked out really well.

Love, who was a very good cornerback at Notre Dame, broke up a couple of passes and displayed tight coverage throughout against one of the premier wide receiving units in the league. He played a big part in the Giants holding Amari Cooper, CeeDee Lamb, and Michael Gallup to under 50 receiving yards each. Love shored up the weak link in the Giants secondary with his play and provided them with two legitimate corners for the first time all season.

Love’s play made Giants fans wonder why it took so long for the team to give him a shot at cornerback. It is his natural position, after all, and he was one of the nation’s best in college.

Over his three-year career with the Fighting Irish, Love totaled 176 tackles, 5 interceptions, 39 passes defended, and 2 forced fumbles. He was a Consensus All-American in 2018 and was also a Thorpe Award finalist, which is given to the best defensive back in college football.

Since Love has been with the Giants, they’ve been using him as more of a safety than a corner, which is something he didn’t play much of in college. Despite showing some promise in his role, it was clear at times that Love was playing a new position. He was even starting to see his playing time disappear because of how crowded the Giants’ safety group became, and it was looking like he was on his way to being another wasted draft pick. Not anymore.

As someone who’s been calling for the Giants to try Love at cornerback for a while now, it was great to see them finally give him a shot. Ideally, you would’ve like to see them make the move sooner so we could’ve had a bigger sample size, but the promise Love showed against a good offense is intriguing.

I’m not saying that the Giants shouldn’t add to the cornerback group at all during the offseason, but they should be more confident in Love’s abilities. I, for one, think his play has made CB2 not as big of a need as it was prior to Week 17.

The Giants would still be wise to use a mid-to-late round draft pick on a defensive back or sign a lower-tier free agent for depth and insurance purposes, but I think that they should go into next season, giving Love every opportunity to start opposite Bradberry each week. He should definitely be the lead candidate.

Will Julian Love be the answer? That remains to be seen. But after what he showed when given a chance, he has definitely earned more of them going forward. Most thought that the Giants would have to look elsewhere to fill the void in the secondary, but for all we know, the Giants might not have to look very far after all.