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CB James Bradberry: The Good, the Great and the Ugly

Was there a better and more consistent player on the Giants last year than cornerback James Bradberry? Nick Falato dives into the film.

 During the 2020 free agency period, Dave Gettleman invested in James Bradberry, a familiar face to the long-time general manager. Gettleman drafted Bradberry in the second round of the 2016 NFL Draft out of Samford. The long cornerback was productive in Carolina but took his game to the next level in 2020 under the tutelage of Patrick Graham.

Bradberry signed a three-year $43.5 million contract, and many pundits around the NFL were left scratching their heads. This deal proves to be a deal as Bradberry is in the running for one of the top five cornerbacks in the NFL. According to Pro Football Focus, he saw 78 targets, allowed 44 catches for 454 yards to go along with three interceptions and 14 passes defended.

He consistently rose to the occasion and made plays on the football, forced turnovers, and trusted his excellent instincts to break on the ball and make aggressive plays. Bradberry, Blake Martinez, Jabrill Peppers, and Leonard Williams all had their best NFL years to date under Patrick Graham--this is no coincidence.

Teams that possess a true number one cornerback will always be ahead of the rest of the NFL. Bradberry is a true number one who can play MEG (man everywhere he goes) or MOD (man on deep) coverage in match while also thriving in zone coverage. Bradberry showed excellent ability to defeat offensive picks/rubs near the line of scrimmage as well.

Now that the Giants added Adoree’ Jackson, the Giants will look to form one of the more formidable young duos at the cornerback position. Bradberry is about to turn 28-years-old, and Jackson is 25. 

Pair that with the newly drafted Aaron Robinson and the 23-year-old Darnay Holmes, and we’re looking at a solid group for Big Blue.

(James Bradberry is No. 24.)

The Good: Turnover Generator

Firstly, apologies for the less than desirable All-22 angle offered here. Watch Bradberry at the top of the screen against Allen Robinson (No. 12). 

Bradberry is outside the numbers on Robinson, and he’s outside the divider line, so his job is to force Robinson towards the sideline and stick to him. He sets up on the inside half of Robinson upon his release, jams, catches, and turns with the star receiver. 

He doesn’t get his head turned, but he reads Robinson’s actions and is able to win a 50/50 ball with one of the better contested-catch receivers in the NFL. Bradberry gets his hands into the catch point and rips the ball out for an interception.

At the top of the screen, Bradberry sticks with his assignment through Carson Wentz’s (No. 11) extemporization. He maneuvers around the receiver while keeping his eyes focused on the quarterback’s intentions. 

This is a very ill-advised play from Wentz, but Bradberry shows impressive receiver skills by high pointing the ball, securing it, and getting his feet inbounds for the pick.

Bradberry is aligned in zone coverage here; while in the slot, he passes the vertical off and sinks underneath the dig route while watching the quarterback's eyes. He effectively passes two routes off before locking onto Kyle Allen’s (No. 8) eyes and seeing him patiently wait for the dig route to open up--it never opens up. Still, the quarterback doesn’t realize this, and Bradberry is the beneficiary.

As Kurt Cobain would say, all apologies! It’s a bit difficult to see, but Bradberry is the field corner at the top of the screen. He’s using zone technique, playing over the top of the receiver. 

Robinson runs a post, and Bradberry decelerates, sinks his hips, and explodes on the break to get to the catch point, forcing the ball in the air where Julian Love (No. 20) intercepts it. Bradberry did such a fantastic job breaking to the catch point in the 2020 season.

This isn’t an interception, but it easily could have been. Bradberry again carries the nine route up the sideline while in a two-high defense, so he’s playing inside trail while in man coverage. 

He is responsible for the back-shoulder throw, and he reads the receiver's route so well that he’s able to get his arm into the catch point and force the ball to be batted up in the air.

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It’s not just interceptions that Bradberry forces; he’s also wise in terms of punching at the football. He channels his inner Peanut Tillman here against the Seattle Seahawks as he comes downhill to punch the ball out of Tyler Lockett’s (No. 16) grasp. The Giants don’t recover the ball, but this is an impressive avoidance of a block and forced fumble from Bradberry.

The Great: Closing to Catch Point

This trait is on display in several of the forced interceptions above, but it also really shines when it’s a short-yardage situation and Bradberry is in man coverage. Offenses typically attack man coverage with rub/pick type of routes designed to allow a receiver manufactured space from their covering defender. 

Normally, offenses like to target their best receiver in these high leverage situations, and these receivers are usually Bradberry’s responsibility.

This 3rd-and-3 play forced a field goal from the Eagles because Bradberry does such a good job working over the top of the traffic and closing width on the catch point. Bradberry is at the top of the screen here, and Travis Fulgham (No. 13) works laterally on a fade type of break to create the pick for Jalen Reagor (No. 18). 

The rookie receiver outside releases up the field, but Bradberry is so disciplined and patient to wait for a commitment from Reagor. He sees the pick coming, works over the top of it, and then uses his very good athletic ability to close width back on Reagor’s route. He plays through the catch point and forces the fourth down.

Here’s a similar type of play against the 49ers where Bradberry just works over the top of the pick and gets to the near hip of the receiver so quickly, forcing an incomplete pass. These are very difficult plays for corners to pull off, but Bradberry did it frequently in the 2020 season.

This play is a bit more about great resilience and recovery than anything else. There isn’t a traditional pick on Bradberry, but he has to work across the field and through traffic on this 4th & 1 play. 

He gets held up by the fake end-around; his receiver becomes open for a large portion of the play, but Bradberry is able to get back into phase and shows very good recovery to close on the catch point and forces the pass defended.

Bradberry isn’t out of phase on this play. It’s another back-shoulder throw designed to take advantage of the leverage Bradberry is showing inside. We saw something similar to this earlier in the article. 

Still, Bradberry does such a good job with his body control, concentration, and with his physicality to knock the ball away from the Bengals’ wide receiver. He uses that inside hand so well, and every inch of his length, to play through the catch point and disallow the receiver from making a high point catch.

At the top of the screen, Bradberry’s eyes are really on display here. He waits for the in cut from his assignment, and then he sinks his hips and explodes inside while playing aggressively through the catch point and forcing his incomplete pass. He has several of these on his tape.

From the endzone angle (thankfully), Bradberry comes into the frame and watches how quickly he reacts to Robinson’s hitch. He’s over the top with his momentum angling inside, and then he turns right as Robinson pivots; then Bradberry breaks through the catch point for yet another harassment on the opposing wide receiver. Bradberry has been a true steal for the Giants.

The Ugly: There’s Not More of Him

There aren’t many things to point out about Bradberry’s game that would give me, or anyone watching his film, a lot of pause. Does he get beat sometimes? Yes, but that is going to happen in the NFL when you’re up against other dominant athletes, and the offenses dictate the timing of plays. 

Even on plays where he’s just beat, and his technique is poor, he still finds ways to get himself back in phase, showing excellent recovery, and knock the pass away. 

There’s not a lot of ugliness to Bradberry’s game from the 2020 season. He did everything that Patrick Graham asked of him, and then some. 

Giants fans should hope that Adoree’ Jackson can be anything close to Bradberry; if that happens, then the Giants secondary is in such a good spot for the future. 


More "Good, Great & Ugly" Breakdowns

WR Kelvin Benjamin | RB Devontae Booker | RB Corey Clement | OLB Lorenzo Carter | CB Isaac Yiadom | TE Kaden Smith | WR Kenny Golladay | TE Levine Toilolo | Edge Ifeadi Odenigbo | DT Danny Shelton | OL Zach Fulton | CB Adoree' Jackson | TE Evan Engram | S Jabrill Peppers | S Xavier McKinney | ILB Reggie Ragland | WR John Ross | TE Kyle Rudolph | OLB Oshane Ximines | LB Carter Coughlin | IDL Dexter Lawrence II | WR Darius Slayton | LB Cam Brown | DL Leonard Williams | OL Will Hernandez | IDL Austin Johnson | IDL B.J. Hill | WR Sterling Shepard | ILB Blake Martinez | DB Logan Ryan | C Nick Gates | OT Matt Peart | CB Darnay Holmes | ILB Tae Crowder


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