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Only a few years ago, in 2016, the secondary of the New York Giants was not only considered the strength of the defense, but probably one of the better secondaries in Giants’ team history. Three Giants defensive backs were legitimately named to the All-Pro team that year: Janoris Jenkins, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, and Landon Collins, the latter making a strong run for “Defensive Player of the Year” honors. The Giants finished 10th in total defense that season and 2nd in scoring defense.
But the secondary has quickly deteriorated since that high point. Despite continuing to earn League honors, Collins has obviously regressed and not made the same impact, also finishing the past two years on IR. Jenkins missed half the season in 2017 and did not play as well in 2018. Rodgers-Cromartie stopped making plays and was cut in March 2018. Making matters worse was that the surrounding talent in the secondary and arguably across the entire defensive unit has gotten worse. As a result, the Giants finished 24th in total defense and 23rd in scoring defense in 2018.
Once you got the past the headliners in Jenkins and Collins, the rest of the defensive back crew was a nondescript group of no-names and castoffs. The Giants admitted to another draft disaster, trading Eli Apple, the 10th overall pick in the 2016 NFL Draft, to the New Orleans Saints for 4th- and 7th-round picks in late October. The rest of the unit was manned by players such as B.W. Webb, Grant Haley, Antonio Hamilton, Tony Lippett, Curtis Riley, Donte Deayon (waived in October), Michael Jordan (waived in October), Michael Thomas, Sean Chandler, Kenny Ladler, and Kamrin Moore. Who? Most fans never heard of any of these guys before 2018 and most of them will probably not be on the team in 2019. In a way, it’s a minor miracle that the secondary was not more abused than it actually was.
In a nutshell, strong safety Collins was disappointing and had issues in coverage. Riley was terrible at free safety. Reserve safety Thomas was a good special teams player, but not starting material. Jenkins was decent but still gave up too many big plays. Webb surprisingly held his own for much of the season, but really faded down the stretch. Undrafted rookie free agent Grant showed some promise as a nickel corner but didn’t make many plays on the football.
While Janoris Jenkins did not have one of better seasons, giving up a number of big plays in 2018, he still remains one of the better cornerbacks in the NFL. Jenkins started all 16 games and finished with 70 tackles, 15 pass defenses, 2 interceptions, and 1 forced fumble. Jenkins was originally drafted in the 2nd round of the 2012 NFL Draft by the St. Louis Rams. The Giants signed him as unrestricted free agent in March 2016. In his first season with the Giants, Jenkins had his best season to date, being voted to his first Pro Bowl and his first All-Pro (second-team) selection. He missed seven games in 2017 with an ankle injury that had bothered him much of the season and required surgery. Jenkins is an average-sized corner with excellent speed and quickness and the ability to shut down any wide receiver when on top of his game. He is not a physical run defender and sometimes shies away from contact.
The Giants signed journeyman B.W. Webb in March 2018 after he was cut by the Cleveland Browns. Webb not only made the team, but he had his best pro season, surprisingly starting 13 of the 16 games he played in, and finishing with 59 tackles, 1 sack, 6 pass defenses, 1 interception, and 1 forced fumble. Webb did a decent job for most of the season before fading late, giving up a number of big plays. The 5’11”, 190-pound Webb was originally drafted in the 4th round of the 2013 NFL Draft by the Dallas Cowboys. Webb has spent time with the Dallas Cowboys (2013), Pittsburgh Steelers (2014), Tennessee Titans (2015), New Orleans Saints (2016), Chicago Bears (2017), and Browns (2017). Webb has played 65 regular-season games with 23 starts.
Grant Haley was originally signed by the Giants as an undrafted rookie free agent after the 2018 NFL Draft. He was signed to the Practice Squad in September 2018 and the 53-man roster in October 2018. Grant ended up being the team’s nickel corner, playing in 10 games with nine starts, and finishing the season with 33 tackles and 2 pass defenses. Haley is a short, but well-built corner with plays with good speed and aggression. He needs to make more plays on the football.
The Giants placed Antonio Hamilton on Injured Reserve in December 2018 with a quad injury. The 6’0, 190-pound Hamilton was originally signed as an undrafted rookie free agent by the Oakland Raiders after the 2016 NFL Draft. He played in 12 regular-season games with no starts for the Raiders. The Giants claimed Hamilton off of waivers from the Raiders in September 2018. He played in 13 games for the Giants with no starts, accruing six tackles on special teams.
The Giants signed Tony Lippett in to the 53-man roster in October 2018. He ended up playing in three games, with no starts, and was exposed in coverage. A former wide receiver, the 6’3”, 192-pound Lippett was originally drafted in the 5th round of the 2015 NFL Draft by the Miami Dolphins. In three years with the Dolphins, from 2015 to 2017, Lippett played in 25 regular-season games with 13 starts. He missed all of the 2017 season with with a torn Achilles’ tendon. The Dolphins cut Lippett before the 2018 season started.
Despite being voted to the Pro Bowl three times from 2016-2018, Landon Collins has not been able to replicate his breakout performance in 2016. He finished both 2017 and 2018 on Injured Reserve, first with a fractured forearm and then with a partially-torn rotator cuff. Both injuries required surgery. On top of the injury issues, Collins has struggled more in coverage against better athletes. In 2018, Collins started all 12 games he played in, finishing with 96 tackles, 4 pass defenses, and 1 forced fumble. Collins was drafted in the 2nd round of the 2015 NFL Draft by the Giants. During his All-Pro 2016 season, Collins started every game and finished the year with 125 tackles, four sacks, 13 pass defenses, and five interceptions. Collins is a big, tough, physical safety who lacks ideal quickness and recovery speed and thus is better suited for strong safety. He did not make many plays on the football in 2018. Collins is good hitter and tackler and plays the run very well.
The Giants signed Curtis Riley as an unrestricted free agent from the Tennessee Titans in March 2018. Riley surprisingly started all 16 games at free safety, finishing with 75 tackles, 5 pass defenses, and 4 interceptions (including one returned for a touchdown). However, he was often a liability against both the run and the pass. The 6’0”, 190-pound Riley was originally signed as an undrafted rookie free agent by the Titans as a cornerback after the 2015 NFL Draft. Riley spent his rookie season on Injured Reserve with an ankle injury. He played in four games in 2016 and seven games in 2017 with no starts. While Riley is a former cornerback with good athleticism for the safety position, he lacks the instincts, aggressiveness, and physicality required to play safety in the NFL.
The Giants signed Michael Thomas as an unrestricted free agent from the Miami Dolphins in March 2018. Thomas not only played in all 16 games, but surprisingly made six starts at safety. He finished the season with 59 tackles, 1 sack, 6 pass defenses, 2 interceptions, and 1 forced fumble. Thomas also played in his first Pro Bowl as a special teams alternate. The 5’11”, 195-pound Thomas was originally signed as an undrafted rookie free agent by the San Francisco 49ers after the 2012 NFL Draft. After spending most of two seasons on the 49ers’ Practice Squad, Thomas was signed to the 53-man roster of the Dolphins in December 2013. In five seasons in Miami, Thomas played in 56 games with 25 starts. A team leader and good locker room presence, Thomas has served as special teams captain with both the Dolphins and Giants. While he is an aggressive, physical player, Thomas lacks the overall athleticism to be a viable NFL starter at safety. He only has 12 career pass defenses.
The Giants signed Sean Chandler as an undrafted rookie free agent after the 2018 NFL Draft. Chandler made the team and played in all 16 games with no starts. He finished the year with 18 tackles, 1 sack, and 1 pass defense. Chandler lacks ideal size and speed, but he is an aggressive, physical defensive back and special teams player.
The Giants signed Kenny Ladler to the Practice Squad in November 2018 and the 53-man roster in December 2018. He ended up playing in three games with no starts, accruing three tackles. The 6’1”, 200-pound Ladler was originally signed as an undrafted rookie free agent by the Buffalo Bills after the 2014 NFL Draft. He has spent time with the Bills (2014-2015), Edmonton Eskimos (2016-2017), and Washington Redskins (2018). Ladler has played in 10 regular-season NFL games with no starts. Five of those games came with the Redskins in 2018 before the Redskins waived him in November.
The Giants claimed Kamrin Moore off of waivers from the New Orleans Saints in September 2018. He played in two games with no starts for the Giants. The 5’11’, 200-pound Moore was drafted in the 6th round of the 2018 NFL Draft by the New Orleans Saints.
NOT ON THE ACTIVE ROSTER
The Giants placed Sam Beal on Injured Reserve in July 2018 with a shoulder injury that required surgery. The Giants selected Beal in the 3rd round of the Supplemental Draft in July 2018. Beal combines good body length (6’1”, 185 pounds) and overall athleticism (4.5 in the 40-yard dash). He’s a smooth, natural cover corner who can flip his hips and has quick feet. Beal does need to improve his run defense.
The Giants signed Ronald Zamort to the Practice Squad in October 2018. The 5’10”, 174-pound Zamort originally signed with the Arizona Cardinals as an undrafted rookie free agent after the 2016 NFL Draft.