Going into the 2019 NFL season, the Giants will have 4 cornerbacks likely to make the roster with 0 NFL game experience in Sam Beal, DeAndre Baker, Julian Love and Corey Ballentine. For the long haul, that gives the Giants a very promising group of cornerbacks but even as the NFL becomes more and more pass happy, teams usually don’t have 4 corners on the field at the same time.
This year they also have to deal with other veterans in the defensive backfield in Janoris Jenkins and Grant Haley at corner and the trio of Antoine Bethea, Jabrill Peppers and Michael Thomas at safety looking like the safe bets to make the team so far. With that being said, there is a good way for the team to be able to utilize all of its new pieces on defense.
I’ll start off with the Sam Beal and Deandre Baker battling for the 2nd starting corner position across from Janoris Jenkins. I would personally like to see the Giants use that position as a matchup position where they make it so Baker and Beal are interchangeable. Baker in college was decent in all forms of coverage so I guess I’d put him as the main starter, but in situations where the opposition has a taller receiver or one who struggles when pressed, I’d give the nod to Beal.
Utilizing corners in ideal matchups is one of the reasons the Patriots defense has been so successful at limiting opponents from getting into the end zone and particularly last season when they had one of their best defenses from throughout their dynasty. I can also see both of them starting at the outside corner spots this season with Janoris Jenkins’ injury history of him only playing all 16 games twice in 7 pro seasons.
Now, Julian Love is an interesting case. As a corner at Notre Dame he graded out incredibly well by Pro Football Focus as they had him as an early 2nd round talent, but his lack o speed for the corner position reasonably scared off teams from taking him early.
In terms of coverage, he excels at both off man and in zone. He also seems to have the requisite skill set to be able to handle duties in the slot, but he’d have to beat out last year’s rookie slot corner Grant Haley who played admirably. What I think the Giants should do with Love is to try and make him into a Tyrann Matthieu type of defensive back that James Bettcher knows how to use in his defense.
Bettcher used a lot of heavy nickel packages in Arizona (3 safeties, 2 corners) and using Love as the 3rd safety in that package can help immensely. Jabrill Peppers was more of a box safety project pick when he was taken by the Browns in 2017 so Bettcher can end up using him as a super fast version of Tony Jefferson with more coverage upside. Then they can use Antoine Bethea as, well Antoine Bethea since he’s already experienced within the scheme and as the defacto captain of the secondary if not officially a team captain.
And finally we come to the guy everyone is rooting for the most, Corey Ballentine. Ballentine was drafted in the 6th round out of Division 2 Washburn University. He was shot on the night he was drafted in an incident that also killed Dwane Simmons one of his college teammates and best friends. He has since made a full recovery and vows to work hard to honor his teammate and friend so now it’s time to look at his skillset.
He is the fastest of the corners on the Giants roster, running a 4.46 40 and he was a special teams ace at Washburn. He also won the Division II defensive player of the year award. His initial role will see him playing on all 4 special teams units and hopefully continuing his dominance from his time in college there. In terms of on the defense, it is hard to expect a player coming out of a Division II school to be able to compete with NFL players and stick to them in college immediately, but I do see a role for him on the defense.
Since he is the fastest of the corners the Giants have, they can initially use Ballentine to match up with some of the faster receivers in the league (with safety help over the top when available). Letting him handle burners such as Desean Jackson of the Eagles will let him gain experience playing corner while not expecting him to have to stick to the savviest route runners in year 1.