Throughout the Giants’ nine-game losing streak, rookie cornerback DeAndre Baker was an obvious scapegoat. Baker received heavy criticism early on in his career from fans and members of the media for blowing coverages, allowing touchdowns, and not hustling. Over the past few weeks that criticism has disappeared.
Instead of hearing negativity, Baker is earning praise more and more each week towards the end of the season. One of his biggest supporters is his position coach, Everett Withers.
“Every way you can imagine,” Withers said Friday when asked how Baker had improved. “Preparation wise, maturity wise. I think just understanding how to be a pro,” said Withers, “All of the things you learn as a young guy that just punches you in the face early, he’s starting to understand.”
So far this year, Baker has allowed 40 receptions to opposing receivers, ranking him 31st among corners in the NFL according to Pro Football Focus.
“That’s just part of football. You can’t win every down or every play. Whenever you don’t win a snap, you can’t be down on yourself,” Baker said. “If you have a bad game or a couple bad games, you can’t look at it and be frustrated. You have to do what you can to improve. I was never the type to be down on myself. I was just looking at ways where I could fix whatever I did wrong.”
Evaluating and learning from mistakes as a rookie is important. While fans might have high expectations for first rounders, a rookie’s first year is intended to acclimate them to the speed of the NFL. Some of the issues we saw from Baker at the beginning of the season were related to not adapting to that speed. Even being at a disadvantage in experience, Baker was always confident in himself.
“Same confidence since the first game, since training camp. Just recognizing better.”
Baker’s improvements are a bright spot for a Giants team that only has three wins in 14 games. With so many rookies playing significant snaps, there have been clear growing pains for the defense and team as a whole. But if Baker continues to improve at the rate he has, the Giants secondary could look very different next season.