This is the first installment of Giants position previews for the upcoming 2018 season. This will be an in-depth look at each position heading into training camp that begins on July 25th.
CB1: Janoris Jenkins (9 Games: 26 tackles, 3 INT, 2 TD, 9 PD, 1 FF), Teddy Williams
CB2: Eli Apple (11 Games: 41 tackles, 8 PD, 2 FR), Sam Beal (rookie)
SLOT: William Gay (16 Games: 16 tackles, 1 INT, 3 PD, 2 FF), Curtis Riley
ON THE BUBBLE: B.W. Webb, Donte Deayon, Grant Haley, Chris Lewis-Harris
KEY LOSSES: Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, Ross Cockrell
Heading into 2017, this unit was set to be lockdown. Janoris Jenkins was coming off a stellar season in his first year with the Giants after signing a five-year $62.5 million contract in free agency. Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie was a ball hawk, haulling in six interceptions at the ripe age of 30. And though rookie Eli Apple struggled with NFL pace early on in the season, he looked more accustomed by the end of the year.
The cornerbacks room was supposed to be the least of the Giants' problems last season, but we all know how that went. Guess they didn't get that memo.
There was laziness. There was frustration on and off the field. There were suspensions for violating team rules. And overall, there was straight disappointment.
On the field, Big Blue got inconsistent play from it's outside defenders, especially Apple. When he was on the field, Apple was a liability, giving up the deep ball or seeing a penalty flag thrown his way if the receiver didn't catch it. There was also the infamous play in the blowout against the Rams where his entire team berated him for a lack of effort during a touchdown run.
The result of that impromptu team meeting? Apple threatened to leave the Giants' facility.
He also had a lot of controversy surround him in his second season. The former first-rounder was a "cancer," according to S Landon Collins who later apologized for those comments. Apple was suspended for a heated exchange with coaches, benched for various personal and team-related reasons for consecutive weeks, caught tweeting on the sideline about a former college teammate scoring a touchdown against his own team, and the list goes on and on.
But he wasn't the only corner who had off-the-field issues. Jenkins and DRC both got suspended during the 2017 season.
Rodgers-Cromartie was suspended indefinitely for a "violation of team rules," but it would only last one game. Jenkins was suspended after failing to show up to the Giants' facility on time following the bye week.
These suspensions and distractions ultimately led to backups taking over for a crew that was supposed to be one of the best in the league. Ross Cockrell was mostly the fill-in man, but he wasn't all that reliable.
Overall, the Giants' passing defense was atrocious as one would expect. They allowed 252.4 passing yards per game, and gave up a league-worst 32 touchdowns through the air.
Now, there are others on the field that control receivers from making those big gains. But this group gets the majority of the blame.
Biggest Question Heading Into Camp: Has Eli Apple officially turned the page?
When new GM Dave Gettleman took over, many believed Apple's career in New York was finished after just two short seasons. Look at what Gettleman did with CB Josh Norman when he was with the Panthers. Apple would certainly get shown the door, right?
Wrong. Gettleman said he doesn't give up on talent, and Apple was the 10th overall selection by the Giants back in 2016. The Giants weren't giving up on him that easily, which meant a "clean slate" for the embattled corner.
With the off-the-field distractions supposedly out of the way, Apple can return to the game with a clear mind. But, even when he wasn't dealing with teammates talking to radio shows behind his back, Apple still was a very inconsistent player. Entering his third year now, there are no excuses for slow starts and shotty play, especially on a unit that has put full faith in Apple to perform this season.
Apple needs to show everyone, including the Giants' faithful, that he was worthy of that first-round choice. And more importantly, he needs to exude maturity on and off the field, or his status as a Giant could quickly turn to free agent.
Redemption is the mantra Jenkins and Apple should live by this season.
Unfortunately, the Giants decided to let Rodgers-Cromartie go, although it wasn't a big surprise. His contract was too large for the Giants to hold onto despite DRC's speciality to play nickelback with success.
But another reinforcement was brought in, and it is another veteran presence in William Gay, who I think has the ability to be a great slot corner. Yes, Gay is 33, but his production has declined. And opposing teams clearly still respect his game as he averaged the most coverage snaps in the NFL last season.
There is also the surprise of the Giants adding Supplemental Draft pick Sam Beal to the mix. Beal is considered by some to be the best prospect out of the Supplemental Draft since Browns WR Josh Gordon. If he was eligible for the regular draft, Beal would have been a top-three corner, so it will be interesting to watch him in camp as well.
Adding other depth players like Teddy Williams and Curtis Riley through free agency showed the Giants wanted to clean up this room, and veterans would set the tone that would hopefully be more tranquil this season.
Either way, the Giants need better coverage on the outside this season, and new defensive coordinator James Bettcher should be making this a priority, especially with his blitz-happy system.
With all the chaos and bad vibes in the locker room last season, I expect this new culture Gettlemand and Co. are bringing in will be a breath of fresh air to this group.