Offensive line coach Bobby Johnson has said that he nicknamed center Jon Feliciano ‘Dirtbag’ because it represents the physicality he wants his linemen to play with. So it’s fitting now that third-year cornerback Darnay Holmes appears to have locked down a starting role with the New York Giants, Wink Martindale has a similar moniker for him: ‘Dirty 30.’
“I think it was something that was earned,” Holmes said. “I feel like I’m a relentless player, so I feel like it’s very fitting. I grew up in an impoverished area. Pretty much growing up in those type of terms you’ve got to always have your guard up and put your best foot forward. When things get rough, you just keep your head down and keep on working. So, as I said before, a very fitting name.”
It’s a mentality that will serve Holmes well as he tries to cement his spot in the lineup after dealing with injuries during the first two seasons of his career. Last year, Holmes started three games in four weeks before a rib injury suffered while returning an interception ended his season in Week 12.
“It was a difficult thing to come to terms with,” Holmes said. “Laying up in the hospital bed, and I was, say I was ruled out for six weeks. I feel like I was at a point where the tide was turning into my favor, but at the end of the day, it was something that came and I just had to deal with it. Pretty much when the injury came, I was able to reflect a lot and just be a student of the game. You know, learn from the other guys, and just be locked in and understand more of the system that was being taught then. More of the game of football, Football 101 type of things.”
Holmes says recovering from the injury changed his mental state and helped him relax while on the practice field these past two weeks.
“I’ll say I’m a guy who is very open minded, so, I’m constantly evolving. I’m in tune with understanding that you’re never going to be able to eliminate doubt,” Holmes said. “You’re never going to be able to eliminate fear. You’re never going to be able to eliminate the inevitable of losing reps. Having the understanding that when I hit that field, it might not go my way and be able to respond. I feel like I’m more grounded and more free flowing.”
Holmes, who is listed as the starting nickel corner on the Giants’ first unofficial depth chart, has been a training camp standout in a thin secondary that desperately needs young players to step up. In the first four days of training camp, Holmes had three interceptions including a pick-six, and a forced fumble.
Surprisingly, Holmes credits his early success to a conversation with former defensive coordinator Patrick Graham about anticipating the offense’s next move.
“I had a heart-to-heart with Patrick Graham last year, and one thing he told me was being from the West Coast, you have that Cali cool, and I wasn’t getting on the line right when I got out of the huddle,” Holmes said. “Pretty much once you get in line, once the offense breaks the huddle ... you’re able to be more observant. You’re able to read what they put right in front of you. So that little tip right there has taken my game to the next level for sure ... He taught me the way you can play fast is by anticipating.”
But Graham isn’t the only former Giants coach Holmes was asked about Tuesday. On Thursday night, the Giants have their preseason opener against the New England Patriots and their new offensive assistant, Joe Judge.
“It’s just another game. I’m excited to see him,” Holmes said. “He’s the reason why I’m in this building. Salute to that guy. Salute to (Dave) Gettleman, salute to those who came before me. At the end of the day, it’s another opponent, another match, and we’re just excited to see where we’re at as a team and as coaches.”
The matchup will presumably also be our first chance to see how Holmes performs Martindale’s defensive scheme, something he believes he will thrive with.
“Early on in my rookie year I was labeled as a guy who was blitzing. You know, a lot of people may have forgotten that, but I didn’t forget that,” Holmes said. “I definitely have a tool in the tool bag. So, as you all know, Wink is going to unleash it.”