When it comes to the New York Giants’ and their murky cornerback situation, there is only one sure thing. Veteran James Bradberry, signed as a high-priced free agent from the Carolina Panthers in the offseason, will handle one spot.
Bradberry is the lone cornerback on the roster with more than two years of experience. He said during a videoconference on Wednesday that it’s “pretty cool” being the veteran of the group, but as a first-year player in Patrick Graham’s defense “I’m learning every day, too.”
“I try to teach them things that might come up when we’re watching film that I might know that might help,” Bradberry said. “For the most part I’m learning as well.”
Giants special teams coordinator Thomas McGaughey was with Bradberry in Carolina before coming to the Giants in 2018. McGaughey said this week that Bradberry can be as quiet as a “church mouse” at times.
“A good man, works his tail off, very quiet and unassuming,” McGaughey said of Bradberry. “He has a workmanlike mentality. He comes in, he does his job. He’s like a little church mouse in the room. You won’t even know he’s there.”
The Giants, as thin and inexperienced as they are at cornerback, need to know Bradberry is there. Both on the field and in the meeting rooms.
Coach Joe Judge was hesitant to label Bradberry as a leader. His description of what he has seen from the veteran corner, though, certainly sounds like the definition of veteran leadership.
“I think all of our players are working on establishing leadership within their own groups. That will emerge more and more as training camp goes on,” Judge said. “It all starts with doing your job well and putting the team first, and that’s really what leaders have to do.
“But I’d say specifically to James, what I’ve really seen with him in person so far is he comes to work every day with a purpose. He’s intent in the meetings. He takes diligent care of his body off the field. You can tell he’s learned through his time in the league as to how to prepare himself for a season. I’ve been very impressed with him with his mannerisms in the meetings and how he’s preparing.”
The Giants have lost cornerbacks DeAndre Baker (Commissioner’s Exempt List) and Sam Beal (opt out). They also missed out after making an effort to sign Ross Cockrell, a teammate of Bradberry’s last season in Carolina.
“All we can do is worry about the guys we have in the room. It’s next man up mentality around here,” Braberry said. “You look in the room right now I feel like we have a lot of ability. We’re going to get the job done no matter what they ask us to do. That’s our mindset.”
Will the Giants continue actively searching for veteran help at cornerback?
“Our priority is just to develop the players we have on the roster and look for any talent available on the street,” Judge said. “I don’t care if it’s a first-year player or a 10th year player. We’re looking for good players who can help build this program. To answer that question pretty direct, is it a priority to have a veteran? No, it’s not.”
Bradberry said the most important part of developing a secondary is the chemstry between the different components because “it’s a brotherhood back there.”
As for his part, Bradberry seems unconcerned about whatever defensive coordinator Patrick Graham might ask him to do. Whether that’s play a side, play zone, travel with a receiver, it doesn’t seem to matter.
“I’ll play anything. Cover 3, Cover 2, man, anything,” Bradberry said.
“I like to do whatever the game plan is. I’m cool with anything. I’m very flexible.
“For me, whatever job they have in the coverage I’m gonna get it done to the best of my ability.”
Over four seasons of often covering some of the league’s best receivers while in Carolina Bradberry never made a Pro Bowl or was considered a true “shutdown” corner, but he did compile a passer rating against of 86.1 and has allowed only 58.4 percent of passes targeting him to be completed.
The Giants need that, or more, from the quiet man this season.