What does the addition of Adoree’ Jackson do for the Giants’ defense?
Well, put it this way: His presence in the secondary allows defensive coordinator Patrick Graham the freedom to do what he truly wants to do during games.
“You need to play man-to-man coverage in this league, period, point-blank,’’ Graham said, “and obviously six wins last year, we didn’t do enough on defense, so the hell with that. We are looking at all options — whether it’s the blitz more, blitz less, play less zone, play more man, we need a whole lot of options. Six wins is not going to cut it.’’
The Giants are going to play more man coverage in 2021, and Jackson is one of the main reasons why. He was signed to a three-year, $39 million contract, with $24.5 million in guaranteed money, and the Giants are banking on upside here. Jackson is just 25, entering his fifth NFL season but coming off a downer of a year with the Titans.
He was the 18th-overall pick in the 2017 draft because his time at USC convinced scouts he has enough size (5-foot-11, 185 pounds) and more than enough speed to be a difference-maker. He was ranked the 15th-best cornerback in the league in 2019 by Pro Football Focus but dropped down to tied for 77th in 2020, playing in just three games because of a knee injury in what was a lost season.
One of the players also ranked No. 77 was Isaac Yiadom, who started 10 games for the Giants last season. Yiadom remains on the roster but faces stiff competition to stay on it. Jackson has replaced him in the starting lineup, opposite James Bradberry.
“I came in with the mindset like I’m a rookie all over again,’’ Jackson said Thursday after the final practice of the three-day minicamp. “Just trying to prove myself, just trying to get respect from my peers. Obviously I played with some, some time had changed, things had changed and everything’s different when you go place to place. So I’m just trying to prove myself and show these guys that I’m willing to learn and play for the team and do everything to the best of my ability.’’
The tempo during this camp was not full-speed for the defense in team drills, but it is readily apparent Jackson is fleet afoot. Graham did wonders with a defense that struggled at the cornerback spot alongside Bradberry. With Jackson on board, the Giants believe they now have the firepower to deal with what high-octane offenses bring to the field.
“Adoree’, he’s fast, he’s athletic, he can tackle and he could get his hands on the ball,’’ Graham said. “You can’t have enough good DBs, because as you could see throughout the league, just take a look at the teams that would be [in] the Super Bowl — Tampa Bay, they were five or six deep at wide receiver plus they had tight ends and they are going to have another tight end coming back. So you have to be able to cover these guys.
“I know we didn’t play a ton of man last year, but we picked spots to play man. I don’t know what the recipe is going to be for this year yet. But I don’t want to be disrespectful of the guys that were here last year that aren’t here. I mean, Adoree’ brings another element.’’
Graham also feels Darnay Holmes, entering his second year, and rookie third-round pick Aaron Robinson also add that other element.
“Will we probably be in more man?’’ Graham said. “Possibly.’’
Bradberry, in his Giants debut season, showed he is worth his hefty price tag — he signed a three-year, $43.5 million deal — but was at times stretched too thin, as Graham was forced to adjust to cover up weaknesses elsewhere in the defensive backfield. The way Jackson can run, the Giants now have a corner who can play against speed receivers. Not that Bradberry cannot do that, but at 6-foot-1 and 212 pounds, he is a more physical defender.
“I mean, I think we were capable of playing man last year,’’ Bradberry said. “But of course in addition to having [Jackson’s] speed, that definitely gives you more upside and more versatility. You have the [Tyreek] Hills of the world, a fast guy, so match up with a fast guy gives you more versatility.
“Definitely when we’re playing those big guys, I would definitely like to match up with a physical guy on physical guy and fast guy on fast guy.’’
It is preferable to have too many players to juggle than not enough.
“It’s always good to have that problem,’’ Graham said.
It is certainly a new “problem’’ for the Giants to confront in their secondary.