No one can be certain if Adoree’ Jackson can handle being CB1. If Aaron Robinson can be a starting-caliber boundary cornerback. If Darnay Holmes or Cor’Dale Flott can handle the slot. If Julian Love can be an every-down safety. If the Giants will have enough depth to survive the inevitable injuries.
One thing Martindale is sure of, though, is that the Giants have the right man in charge of that group.
“I think we’ve got the best secondary coach in the league, Jerome Henderson,” Martindale said on Thursday. “I’m excited for that room.”
Jerome Henderson, called "the best defensive backs coach in the league," by Wink Martindale, works a drill on Thursday at Giants OTA. pic.twitter.com/1YA2TaSabz— Big Blue View (@bigblueview) May 26, 2022
Henderson is a holdover from Joe Judge’s coaching staff. The 52-year-old played in the NFL from 1991-98, and has been an NFL defensive backs coach since 2007.
Henderson and Martindale had not worked together previously. Henderson chucked when informed on Martindale’s praise.
“Working with Wink has been awesome,” Henderson said. “High energy. Aggressive mindset with the defense, the guys like it, they’re taking to it, and you can really see the guys following his direction.”
Henderson said he was “on pins and needles” after Joe Judge was fired, wondering if he would get to stay with the Giants.
“I didn’t know, was just waiting to see what would happen like everybody else on pins and needles, just kinda seeing how it played out,” he said. “Very honored that he [Coach Brian Daboll] did retain me to be back here as a Giant. Excited again about the direction and where we’re headed. Honored to work for him (Daboll) and for Coach Martindale.”
Henderson has a vastly different group — minus veterans Logan Ryan and James Bradberry — playing a vastly different, far more aggressive style this season.
“It’s a young group. We’re growing and learning the system. I’m learning just like they are. I’ve asked them to stay patient with me. I’m going to stay patient with them, we’re going to learn this together and grow in this defense together,” Henderson said on Thursday.
“The thing I like is they’re competing really hard. You can see the direction of the defense, it’s going to be aggressive, it’s going to get after people, and we’re going to play hard. I think the guys are enjoying that aspect of it.”
Much has been made of the idea that a Martindale defense stresses cornerbacks, requires them to play man-to-man coverage without help more than other defenses, and can lead to big plays given up when defenders don’t hold up on the back end.
Henderson on Thursday preferred to point out the other side of that proverbial coin.
“The other side of that is the ball’s gotta come out quicker now,” Henderson said. “Hopefully we don’t have to cover quite as long. If we can be disruptive early hopefully we can help the defense play at a very high level.
“Right now the guys are really excited about the direction we’re going with that. We know quarterbacks aren’t going to have all day to sit back there and pat the ball on us, that we’re going to be aggressive, we’re going to go after ‘em. That’s going to, at times, put some stress on us in the back end. I’m excited that we’ll hold up and we’ll do our job at a high level.”
Here are Henderson’s thoughts on three of the cornerbacks the Giants will likely be relying on.
Can Adoree’ Jackson be a No. 1 cornerback?
“We’ll see how that plays out as we go. Whether we will match, whether we won’t match. We’ll see,” Henderson said. “Right now we’re just playing left and right and playing ‘em on both sides and just trying to see where we end up.”
Aaron Robinson’s fit as a boundary cornerback?
“You like his length, his competitiveness, his toughness,” Henderson said. “I think putting him outside will simplify his world and let him play fast. I’m excited to see what he does out there.”
What could third-round pick Cor’Dale Flott bring to the defense?
“I like his versatility. Today he played some nickel, played some corner,” Henderson said. “I like his length for playing outside. We’ll just see how all these battles play out. I know he’ll bring us flexibility – he can play inside and outside.”