The New York Giants have spent a lot of draft and free agent capital on their secondary over the past three offseasons. Still, while there are a number of promising young players on the 90-man roster, there remains a critical question.
Who is going to be the primary slot cornerback? Could that end up being Dravon Askew-Henry, an under-the-radar member of the roster signed as a free agent after most recently playing for the XFL’s New York Guardians?
Let’s take a closer look at Askew-Henry?
Contract status: Year 1 of two-year, $1.39 million contract (ERFA 2022)
How he got here
The Giants didn’t have to go far to scout Askew-Henry as his XFL home games were played at MetLife Stadium, across the parking lot from their team headquarters.
Undrafted after playing collegiately at West Virginia, Askew-Henry signed last season as an undrafted free agent with the Pittsburgh Steelers. He was waived at the end of the preseason, did not land an NFL job during 2019, and ended up playing for the Guardians.
Who’s in the slot? Corey Ballentine? Grant Haley? Both were there in 2019, and both were found wanting. Julian Love? That’s the position he seemed to have been drafted for before the Giants moved him to safety. With Xavier McKinney and Jabrill Peppers, though, a return to the slot might be Love’s ticket to playing time. Darnay Holmes? Competing for slot responsibilities would seem to be the primary reason the Giants drafted him.
What, though, about Askew-Henry?
Yes, he is a cousin to Darrelle Revis. No, it’s not fair to expect him to be Revis — if he was, he wouldn’t have been cut by the Steelers or playing in the XFL. Yes, he caught and threw a flag back at an official during an XFL game. No, it’s not fair to label him as some sort of malcontent for that.
Cris Dishman, who spent 13 years playing defensive back in the NFL, was Askew-Henry’s defensive backs coach with the Guardians.
“Every day you just fall more in love with him. He’s a consummate professional. Everybody can be a pro, but not everybody can be a professional,” Dishman said.
“He wants to prove to everybody he can play at the next level. Which I have no doubt.”
So, why then did Askew-Henry go undrafted out of WVU, get cut by Pittsburgh and have to go to the XFL in hopes of salvaging his NFL dream?
“I don’t know what the Steelers had at the time [when they cut Askew-Henry], so I can’t speak on that, but I can see him making the Giants team. I don’t know what the Giants have, but I know that they don’t have a guy like Dravon Askew-Henry,” said Dishman, pointing out that Askew-Henry can play boundary or field corner, slot, and free safety.
“A guy like that can be very special.”
Dishman said that slot cornerback would be Askew-Henry’s best landing spot to begin with the Giants, but that he could fill in capably anywhere in the secondary.
“He’s got very quick hands and feet. He’s got so much potential. … You could see every week [in the XFL] he was getting better,” Dishman said.
“He has not even reached half the potential he has.”
Dishman first became aware of Askew-Henry in 2015 when he was an assistant coach at Baylor. The Bears had Corey Coleman. who was then a future first-round pick and one of the best wide receivers in college football. Askew-Henry was a relatively unknown sophomore cornerback.
“He’s the only one in the Big 12 that gave Corey Coleman problems,” Dishman said. “All these five-star rated corners that Oklahomas had, Texas had, Dravon Askew-Henry gave Corey Coleman fits.”
Dishman said Askew-Henry’s versatility might be both blessing and curse as he tries to establish himself as an NFL player.
“He’s so good at everything and people may not know where to put him,” Dishman said. “I know that I was able to play 13 years in the NFL and I’ve been coaching now for 15, 16 years. I know a guy like Askew-Henry has a place in the NFL. It’s just the coach has to find that place for him.”
Can the Giants, with Patrick Graham as defensive coordinator and Jerome Henderson as defensive backs coach, be the team that finds a place for Askew-Henry?