On September 3, the Giants traded a seventh-round pick to the Denver Broncos for Isaac Yiadom, a 2018 third-round selection. The Boston College product was added to the Giants after a truncated training camp that included a lot of video communication.
Hindsight suggests that the acquisition of Yiadom may have been a referendum on Corey Ballentine, who was released not long after the commencement of the season.
New York’s defense was a lot more effective than many imagined; defensive coordinator Patrick Graham is creative, innovative, and used a lot of four- and five-man pressure packages to manipulate quarterbacks and earn sacks, and the Giants finished in the top 12 of sacks in the season (40) despite not having a true top-flight edge rusher.
There was one issue that Graham learned in Week 1 about his defense and the personnel. The Giants couldn’t run man coverage without their second cornerback spot being a liability. After starting the season with Ballentine, the Giants went to Yiadom until he was benched in favor of Ryan Lewis after Week 4.
Lewis flashed for a bit but was a big reason for the late game collapses against the Dallas Cowboys and Philadelphia Eagles. Lewis ended up on the injured reserve and didn’t see the field again, so Yiadom returned to the starting lineup in Week 8 against the Buccaneers.
Because the second cornerback spot wasn’t capable of running man coverage at an effective rate, the Giants only employed it on less than 25% of their snaps, and mostly in third and short situations.
When Graham was the defensive coordinator with the Dolphins the previous season, they ran a lot of man coverage and a lot of Cover-0, which is an all-out blitz with no safeties to protect. That coverage is especially dangerous if the corners aren’t disciplined at the line of scrimmage and if they can’t stay in phase on horizontal routes.
Yiadom isn’t the best with these responsibilities, but he’s a solid option with his backside to the sideline in zone coverage concepts. He can play top-down, use his vision, and attack aggressively downhill to negate offensive gains.
Yiadom isn’t a bad player; he’s just not an ideal option to start in a defense that wants to run man coverage. Let’s go over some of the aspects of his game that render value in this edition of the Good, the Great, and the Ugly.
(Isaac Yiadom is No. 27.)
The Good: Run Support
This Giants put such a high priority on secondary pieces who are good tackling players--that's a reason why they traded up to select cornerback Aaron Robinson in the third round.
Yiadom is physical, aggressive, and has good tackling mechanics, which is why he often saw the field in his first year with the team.
One can see how the lineman crash inward and the EDGE players execute their block down, step down assignments; this is to spill this running back to the outside where the secondary players are supposed to make clutch tackles for minimal gains (Yiadom does that in this clip).
Linebacker Devonte Downs (No. 52) squeezes, and Julian Love (No. 20) fills the alley to bounce Jerick McKinnon (No. 28) to the outside. Downs isn’t athletic enough to finish the tackle, but he forces the path wide and allows Yiadom to come up, stay square, get low, and hold the running back up on the goal line.
This is a good play by the Giants here--too bad it wasn’t enough in this Week 3 loss.
Yiadom is to the right side of the screen; it’s a zone run to the opposite side of Yiadom, who fills the cut-back lane quickly. Leonard Fournette (No. 28) watches David Mayo (No. 55) flow towards the middle of the offensive formation, meaning there’s only Yiadom and the back-side end near the cut-back lane.
Trent Harris (No. 93) does a good job holding the point of attack against Rob Gronkowski (No. 87) and not flowing too far to the middle. Fournette attempts the cut to the back-side, but Harris and Yiadom are both there for the tackle.
I love how quickly Yiadom attacks downhill to ensure that Fournette has little breathing room. It’s a good aggressive play in run support.
Here’s another play where Yiadom comes screaming downhill, this one against a power/gap run from the 49ers. Lorenzo Carter (No. 59) and Yiadom both go to contain and neither go into the alley initially; this could be due to a miscommunication or the block on Carter.
Yiadom gets a bit too far upfield but dives back at the running back to make the tackle in a big hole. I want cornerbacks who embrace contact and are never going to be an issue in terms of tackling. Yiadom was hardly an issue in that area through the 2020 season.
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Yiadom is at the bottom of the screen here, and he waits for the running back to make the catch on the dump-off against the Cardinals.
He can’t close downhill too quickly because his zone assignment has to respect the underneath portions of Christian Kirk’s (13) vertical route.
Once Murray shows that he is throwing to the flat, Yiadom clicks & closes downhill to make a hard tackle in space.
This tackle comes near the sideline against the Bengals as Giovani Bernard (No. 25) catches a flare route.
It’s an easier tackle attempt because of the location of the sideline. Still, I appreciate how Yiadom stays square and uses the location of the field to his advantage not to allow Bernard space.
Another play against the Bengals; Yiadom’s awareness off the play-action fake is solid. He initially bites down and then keys the backside crosser and drops to the correct depth to eliminate that route.
This prompts the quarterback to just check the football down in the high-low situation. Once Yiadom senses the pass, he’s already heading downhill to make a tackle on Bernard for a short pick-up. The tackle is low, strong, wrap up, and he finishes well.
Yiadom flies in from the left side of the screen. Cameron Brate (No. 84) does a good job forcing separation versus Blake Martinez (No. 54) on the Y-Stick option play; Brate leans into the contact and then pivots outside to put Martinez in a tough spot.
Brate then catches the football, and Yiadom has the awareness to come off his assignment and tackle Brate to mitigate the yardage gained.
The Ugly: Man Coverage
Week 1 explained a lot to the Giants coaching staff. The personnel just wasn’t ready to run a lot of man coverage concepts, and a reason for that was because of Yiadom.
The Giants have now added Adoree' Jackson and Aaron Robinson into the mix, so I expect more man coverage, but these crossers were too tough for Yiadom to handle last year.
Yiadom is in the middle of the field against JuJu Smith-Schuster (No. 19). His double move just freezes Yiadom, who doesn’t have the twitch, fluidity, or short-area quickness to react and close on a dime. The result is a touchdown for Pittsburgh.
Yiadom is at the top of the screen on this play, and he gives Gronkowski a free release inside. Gronkowski sells Yiadom with a hard outside jab foot which freezes the cornerback.
Once Gronkowski angles back inside, Yiadom fails to put himself back into phase to make a play on the football. This lack of stickiness in man coverage is an issue.
The inability to consistently stay in phase comes up a lot for Yiadom when facing the mesh concept, a passing play that creates horizontal traffic.
This is one of the best I’ve seen Yiadom versus the mesh, but the throw from Baker Mayfield (No. 6) is just too good. Yiadom only loses by a half step here; he’s trailing on that inside hip of Jarvis Landry (80) but is just a bit off and can’t get that arm into the catch point to disrupt.
Here’s another mesh concept (top of the screen). The play is set up well by the offensive formation and the release of Logan Thomas (No. 82). Yiadom just doesn’t have the ability to close width to recollect and get back in phase quickly.
However, I love how Yiadom gets up and finishes the tackle after failing to bring him down in pursuit because his teammate tripped him. He has a good amount of competitive toughness, but that can only get a player so far.