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Better or worse? Giants’ cornerbacks

Replacing James Bradberry won’t be easy for Giants

New York Giants v Philadelphia Eagles Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images

Recent New York Giants teams haven’t exactly been synonymous with the Pro Bowl, but two players were able to earn the trip to Orlando in 2020: tight end Evan Engram and cornerback James Bradberry. The former’s nomination was controversial and primarily due to various injuries at the tight end position around the NFC, but the latter’s was well deserved.

Bradberry was phenomenal in his first season with the Giants, recording a 56.4 percent catch rate against opposing top wide receivers with 14 PBUs and three interceptions. New York’s cap situation forced Bradberry’s release, who ultimately signed with the Eagles (cringing).

New general manager Joe Schoen had to replace one of the better Giants over the last half-decade. It wasn’t easy, but he invested in cheap veteran options, two UDFAs, and one third-round pick on an upside player.

Key losses: James Bradberry, Keion Crossen
Key additions: Cor’Dale Flott, Maurice Canady, Michael Jacquet, Zyon Gilbert, Darren Evans

Why the Giants might be better

There are two major avenues where the Giants’ current cornerback room can be better than in 2021. One, Bradberry seriously declines, and the Giants find an immediate gem in one of the five new additions. And two, if Aaron Robinson, Rodarius Williams, or Darnay Holmes take a significant step forward - which is plausible.

Bradberry will be 29 years old at the start of the season. His 2021 season wasn’t as impressive as 2020, but he’s still a number one cornerback. Bradberry allowed a 65.2% catch rate, 13 PBUs, four interceptions but allowed eight touchdowns and the most yards after the catch in his career.

I don’t view Bradberry as a declining player, but the depreciation of talent for veteran cornerbacks can swiftly arrive. It’s improbable that Flott, Canady, Jacquet, Gilbert, or Evans will arrive and singularly provide 75 percent of Bradberry’s effectiveness, but crazier things have happened.

Why the Giants might be worse

I appreciate Schoen’s attempt to replace the loss of Bradberry, but the cornerback’s departure is too challenging to substitute. Not only is Bradberry no longer on the roster, but he signed with the Eagles, making a divisional opponent much stronger on the backend of their defense while effectively withdrawing a top-5 player on the Giants. This forces Adoree’ Jackson to become the de facto number one cornerback and Aaron Robinson into a somewhat uncertain situation as the number two.

I remain high on Robinson as a young ascending player, but it’s unfeasible to imagine that he can replicate Bradberry’s impact over the last two seasons. The Giants also have Rodarius Williams returning from his ACL injury and Darnay Holmes to compete in the slot, also returning from an injury (ribs).

Losing a Pro Bowl talent like Bradberry is too difficult to overcome in one season with unproven assets and a few journeymen.

Final thoughts

The Giants are transitioning to a defense that’s more predicated on backend coverage and has a much more aggressive philosophy than Patrick Graham’s bend don’t break approach. If injured, the Giants will promote unproven young players into one-on-one responsibilities against very good wide receivers in a game that’s structured towards offensive success.

If the cornerback room remains healthy, the Giants still rely on Aaron Robinson as the number two cornerback - a role I think he can execute. However, who is playing cornerback outside next to Robinson if Jackson goes down? Rodarius Williams? Canady? Jacquet? I think those players are fine, but this leaves me very uneasy as it currently stands.

The Giants’ cornerback room is in a worse position than it was a year ago. Crossen was a key special teams player and only played 24 defensive snaps. However, losing Bradberry may prove to be an arduous task to overcome for the 2022 Giants.