clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Could Adoree’ Jackson really be the Giants’ slot corner in 2023?

He’s played it before, why not again?

If you buy something from an SB Nation link, Vox Media may earn a commission. See our ethics statement.

New York Giants Training Camp
Adoree’ Jackson
Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images

With all the attention being paid to the potential of the New York Giants’ revamped receiver corps during the first days of training camp, it’s easy to forget how much this season also hinges on the ability of Wink Martindale’s defense to keep opposing passing offenses in check. A lot will depend on the defensive line’s ability to get consistent pressure on quarterbacks, but pass coverage is equally important.

The Giants have had one solid boundary cornerback the past two years in Adoree’ Jackson, but question marks have surrounded the other boundary corner position since James Bradberry left. Meanwhile, slot cornerback, for all intents and purposes a starting position now in the 11 personnel-dominated NFL, has been a sore point. It’s an urgent problem for a team that will face CeeDee Lamb, Cooper Kupp, Tyreek Hill, and Davante Adams, all of whom line up at least part-time in the slot, this season. The idea that slot corner is a less prestigious position than outside corner, manned by defenders who face “crafty” rather than physically gifted receivers, no longer really jibes with how NFL offenses have evolved.

The Giants’ options at slot corner

It was hoped that 2020 draftee Darnay Holmes might be the answer, but he has been prone to defensive holding penalties during his career and has played poorly in the man coverage that Wink favors. In his defense, his 65% completion rate and 85.8 NFL passer rating against for his 330 slot snaps in 2022 was not terrible. Holmes however also has a $2.94M cap hit in 2023 per Over The Cap, $2.74M of which could be saved if he were to be cut before the season starts.

The problem is whom to play at slot cornerback in place of him. Here is the complete list of Giants who played in the slot in 2022, from Pro Football Focus:

Data from Pro Football Focus

Since 2021, the Giants have hoped that the answer in the slot would be Aaron Robinson, whom Dave Gettleman traded up to get in the draft using one of the assets from his first-round trade down with Chicago. Robinson has shown flashes in coverage but has been hurt for most of his Giants career (only three slot snaps in 2022). He remains on the Physically Unable to Perform (PUP) list at the start of training camp.

Nick McCloud got the second most slot snaps after Holmes in 2022, but his near-perfect 156.7 passer rating against does not inspire confidence that he is the answer. Fabian Moreau, who got the third most slot snaps, was not brought back, and Zyon Gilbert, who was, had a perfect passer rating against when in the slot. Cor’Dale Flott and Rodarius Williams only had cups of coffee in the slot in 2022.

In the first week of training camp, Holmes and Flott shared slot corner reps most of the time, according to Dan Duggan of The Athletic.

What about Adoree’ Jackson?

It’s safe to say that the working hypothesis entering Giants’ training camp this season was that Adoree’ Jackson would return as one of the boundary corners and first round pick Deonte Banks would win the other starting boundary corner position. There has not been any narrative at all about the starting slot corner other than that running it back with Darnay Holmes was not a great solution given his previous performance and cap hit.

One week into camp, things have started to get interesting - in both good and bad ways. Banks has struggled in his first week as a pro, regularly getting beaten:

He did however finally get a positive training camp highlight on Monday:

For the moment it’s reasonable to imagine that Banks will grow into the starting boundary corner position by the time the season starts.

The surprise, though, has been the emergence of sixth round pick Tre Hawkins III. Hawkins was seen as a developmental project who might or might not make the 53. However Hawkins opened eyes the first week of camp with numerous pass breakups, e.g., this one:

It’s very early, of course. During Monday’s practice, though, Hawkins was getting first-team reps at boundary corner while Jackson played in the slot and Holmes played with the third string (safety Bobby McCain was the second-string slot corner). He continues to make plays there.

Could this become the Giants starting cornerback lineup in 2023? It seems unlikely, but is it really? Here are a few reasons it may not be so far-fetched:

  • Jackson did get 40 snaps in the slot in 2022 and gave up only three catches in eight targets for 10 yards and a measly 45.8 NFL passer rating, as seen in the PFF table above. (He was less successful in 2021 in Patrick Graham’s zone defense, with six completions in 10 targets for 70 yards and a 114.6 passer rating.)
  • Jackson is short for a boundary corner (5-foot-11), and this may be one reason he intercepts so few passes. Banks is 6-foot and Hawkins 6-3 and both are more natural fits on the outside, IF they show they are ready to play.
  • Most of all, which player do you want to see opposite Lamb, Kupp, Hill, and Adams when they line up in the slot against the Giants this season? There is still hope that Aaron Robinson makes the 53 to start the season, and that he shows that he can be a plus player at the NFL level. Jackson had his hands full with Lamb in Week 3 last season, including a touchdown surrendered, but Kupp only caught one short pass in one target against him in a 2021 game.

If not Jackson, though, someone has to do it. There’s no Jalen Ramsey on the Giants’ roster. It’s still very early to assume anything about Tre Hawkins’ viability as a rookie, never mind Deonte Banks’. Maybe Flott’s large number of slot reps early in camp suggest him as the favorite. The Giants’ primary 2023 slot corner may not even be on the roster yet. But using Jackson more often there, at least in games in which the opponent’s best receiver works mostly out of the slot, may not be a terrible idea.