Jerome Henderson Instilling an All-Pro Mentality in Giants Young Defensive Backs

Giants defensive backs coach Jerome Henderson once coached greats like Darrelle Revis and Joe Haden. With Henderson now faced with coaching up a young group of Giants defensive backs, here are some qualities from those two defenders Henderson hopes to develop in his young charges.
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Giants defensive backs coach Jerome Henderson knows a thing or two about developing young defensive backs.

In addition to once having played the position in the NFL, Henderson has coached a bevy of successful defenders throughout his career, including future Hall of Famer Darrelle Revis during his first two seasons in the league (2007-08), and current Steelers defender Joe Haden in his first two seasons (2010-11) with the Browns.

Besides having the obvious talent to play the position at a high level, those two players, according to Henderson, shared a competitive streak that almost bordered on the obsessive to win every battle.

"When you mention guys like that, things you know at this position, you're going to have to have guys that are really competitive," Henderson said. "They don't want to lose at anything ever to anybody."

Henderson has been working to instill that same mentality into the Giants' young cornerbacks, echoing the philosophies of head coach Joe Judge. However, Henderson believes another side of the mindset is just as important to developing into a top-flight defensive back: a short memory.

"Any of those guys you named, they're going to have bad plays, they're going to have bad moments," Henderson said. "You just got to know that 'I'm going to come back the next play with confidence in my technique, confidence in myself, confidence in my ability,' and just got out and play the next play."

For the Giants' core of first and second-year defensive backs, many of which were later-round draft picks, mistakes are inevitable.

Cornerbacks Corey Ballentine, Darnay Holmes, Chris Williamson, and Grant Haley are all bound to see playing time in 2020, and at least one will likely have to line up opposite Bradberry as the team's other starting cornerback.

While all of them have been competitive and are making progress, none can lay claim to being established corners just yet, which is why Henderson is trying to get them thinking as Revis and Haden did early in their respective careers

"You're never going to play the perfect game," Henderson said. "Just keep battling to win the next play. You can't do anything about the play that just happened."

To be clear, none the Giants' young defensive backs boast the same type of elite talent as Revis and Haden, but these young players can still benefit from the lessons Henderson taught the All-Pros back in the day.

Holmes, a fourth-round rookie out of UCLA, has already begun applying that philosophy to his game. Holmes, who was considered by many to be an "undersized" corner at 5'10, which is otherwise regarded as smallish for an NFL cornerback who regularly faces taller receivers, doesn't think that way when he sets foot on the field.

"It’s not a battle of flesh and blood; it’s a battle between your ears, which is your mental state," Holmes said. "Really going up there with the utmost confidence and focused approach about the task at hand.

"Every drill I’m doing, trusting it. Claiming the lessons of the mistake I made in that drill or certain reps in the summer."

The group as a whole is even applying their own mentorship themselves within the defensive backs room. Ballentine revealed that the group is communicating to help each other overcome mistakes as a unit.

"We text each other in the group chat whenever we have questions," Ballentine said. "it’s really just taking it day by day and learning and growing. Everyone has those bumps and bruises when you are introduced to something new. We’re just taking it day by day, going with the flow and trying to correct mistakes when the happen."