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Giants rebuild defensive backfield — how will the pieces fit?

There’s little time to figure out this puzzle

Wild Card Round - Tennessee Titans v New England Patriots Photo by Adam Glanzman/Getty Images

Having lost DeAndre Baker, Sam Beal and Xavier McKinney, the New York Giants are remaking their defensive secondary on the fly with the start of the regular season just a week away.

The Giants added Logan Ryan and Brandon Williams in free agency during the final week of training camp, made a trade with the Denver Broncos for Isaac Yiadom and claimed safety Adrian Colbert on waivers Sunday.

How are all of these new pieces going to fit? Can they possibly be ready to play as a cohesive unit in just seven days?

“We’ll have to wait and see,” coach Joe Judge said on Sunday. “I can’t answer that right now, but we’re definitely going to give them all the information we can to make sure we put them in a position to play to their strengths.”

Judge, we have already learned, is secretive about personnel and plans. He was typically vague Sunday when asked who would play cornerback opposite James Bradberry.

“We’re going to see. Right now, we’re looking to play as many of our players as possible at those positions. Keep them fresh and rotate,” Judge said. “One thing we haven’t had yet is a preseason game or a regular season game yet obviously. We’re going to make sure we use all of our guys, roll them on through, and we’ll see who performs the best. Whoever the hot hand is we may go with, but we’re going to make sure we keep rolling them on through and building the experience of the group as a whole.”

Could the Giants actually use some type of rotation of defensive backs? Considering all of the new pieces, perhaps that is going to be the only way to get a true read on what they actually have.

Let’s assess the new pieces to the secondary and see if we can decipher some clues as to where they might fit.

Logan Ryan

When the news broke that the Giants, after months of speculation that Ryan and the Giants seemed like a natural fit, had signed the veteran defensive back Judge was asked a natural question. Is Ryan a cornerback or a safety for the Giants?

He’s likely both.

“He’s going to play a variety of roles for us, so if I gave you one answer right there, I’d be lying. Logan, one of his strengths really is versatility. We’re going to play him in different packages all over the field,” Judge said. “Really, having a guy like that allows you to play other guys in fewer positions because he can handle a lot of the multiples while these guys are learning the system.”

Darnay Holmes had a good enough training camp to most likely be the Giants’ slot corner. That could lead to Ryan initially taking snaps away from second-year man Corey Ballentine as a boundary cornerback opposite Bradberry. Ryan could also be part of three-safety packages with Julian Love and Jabrill Peppers.

Isaac Yiadom

The Giants sent a 2021 seventh-round pick to Denver for Yiadom, a 2018 third-round pick who never became a full-time starter with the Broncos. Yiadom played just 24 percent of Denver’s defensive snaps as a rookie, then made eight starts and played 48 percent of snaps last season.

In a film study, our Nick Falato concluded that the 24-year-old is “an adequate depth piece who can contribute on special teams.”

Will the Giants, with uncertainty right now as to who the second boundary cornerback will be opposite James Bradberry, see Yiadom as more than that? Perhaps.

“We like the way he plays on the line of scrimmage. He has some experience within the league. That goes a little bit of ways, but it’s our job as coaches to get him caught up to our system as fast as possible,” Judge said. “We like the energy and effort he plays with, we like the physicality he shows on the line of scrimmage, and obviously, this is a guy that we remember when he came out of college not too long ago in the draft. We’ve known about this guy in the league for a while.”

In two seasons, Yiadom has compiled passer rating against marks of 105.3 and 104.9 with one interception in 88 targets. We will have to see if the Giants can get better play than that from him.

Brandon Williams

In three NFL seasons, Williams has started only three of the 45 games in which he has played. It’s doubtful the Giants, with Ryan, Yiadom and Corey Ballentine as boundary options, look at him as a potential starter.

Williams missed last season with a shoulder injury. His resume shows, though, that he is an experienced special teams player, if also a wildly inconsistent one.

In 2018, Williams played 71 percent of the special teams snaps for the Arizona Cardinals. He made five tackles, but also missed five and committed four penalties.

Judge talks a lot about consequences of mistakes. If Williams is that inconsistent as a Giant, it’s hard to see him remaining on the roster for a full season.

Adrian Colbert

Speed will get you opportunities in the NFL, and Colbert ran a reported 4.25 at his Pro Day while at Miami in 2017.

Colbert is a safety and has 17 starts over three seasons with the San Francisco 49ers and Miami Dolphins. It is significant that he played in six games last season, starting five, with the Dolphins. Giants defensive coordinator Patrick Graham was, of course, in that capacity with Miami in 2019.

So, Colbert knows Graham’s defense and has already established some trust with Graham.

Colbert is supposed to be a big hitter, and goes by the nickname “The Punisher.”

Love and Peppers will be the starting safety tandem. How much Colbert plays might depend on how the Giants choose to use Ryan, and how much they lean on a three-safety package with McKinney on IR.