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Young Defensive Backs Aim to Be a Strength of Giants'  Defense

The Giants are turning to some young and, in some cases, relatively unproven players to help reshape their defensive backfield.

A year ago, the New York Giants' defensive secondary, whose starters included corners James Bradberry and Adoree' Jackson and safeties Xavier McKinney and Logan Ryan, was the least of the team's worries.

Now? Both Ryan and Bradberry are ex-Giants, which has opened up a big question about how the coaching staff plans to replace their combined 2021 production of 164 tackles, four interceptions, and 25 pass breakups.

The good news is the Giants feel they have options, starting with second-year man Aaron Robinson, who projects as the starting cornerback to replace Bradberry.

"I like his length, competitiveness, and toughness," said defensive backs coach Jerome Henderson. "I think putting him outside will simplify his world and let him play fast. And I'm excited to see what he does out there."

Jan 2, 2022; Chicago, Illinois, USA; The breath of New York Giants cornerback Julian Love (20) is visible in the cold air between plays against the Chicago Bears during the first half at Soldier Field.
May 14, 2021; East Rutherford, New Jersey, USA; New York Giants cornerback Aaron Robinson (33) works out during rookie minicamp at Quest Diagnostics Training Center.
Dec 12, 2021; Inglewood, California, USA; A detailed view of a New York Giants helmet at SoFi Stadium.

Robinson played 262 of his 1,683 defensive snaps at Central Florida on the perimeter but was projected to become the Giants' slot cornerback. However, last year's Giants' third-round draft pick started his NFL career on the PUP list while recovering from an off-season sports hernia procedure.

When he returned, he had to play catch up. Being a fast learner and taking advantage of his teammates' offers to help him, Robinson quickly caught up and contributed 26 tackles and three pass breakups in 268 defensive snaps.

"It was a learning experience," Robinson said of his rookie campaign. "A lot of it was mental for me at first. I had some great guys around me helping me and bringing me up until I was able to get back out there and help them any way I could."

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And now that he's facing a potential full-time move to the outside/

"I'm not thinking about it too much," Robinson said. "Cornerback is a cornerback. You're trying to defend your turf. I'm going to try my best to do that the best way I can and get better every day."

Love, a fourth-round pick in 2019, is now the longest-tenured member of the Giants' defensive secondary and a player who has not missed a game in the last two seasons. The Giants have feasted on Love's versatility to play different positions.

Although Love seems to be penciled in as the starting safety alongside McKinney, he recently told the New York Post that he hasn't changed his mindset as he prepares for his fourth NFL season.

"I still feel like — despite what it seems right now — I have that chip on my shoulder," he said. "I feel like my back is always against the wall. That's just been instilled in me. I've had to fight for what I've gotten.

"I keep thinking about what my role and responsibility are. I'm a big proponent that everything happens for a reason. That resiliency I've had to have the past few years is only going to make me a better player this year. I'm trying to raise my game this year by still letting the game to me, most importantly. But you know where I'm coming from: I have to keep that chip on my shoulder."

Behind Robinson and Love are several young players such as corners Cor'Dale Flott, Darnay Holmes, and Rodarius Williams, and safeties Dane Belton and Yusuf Corker, just to name a few.

"Yeah, definitely a young unit," Henderson said. "But I'm excited for where this group is going. They're competing very hard. They want to be good. They're trying their butt off to do it right, to do what (defensive coordinator) Wink (Martindale) asks. Each day, we're just trying to take another step and get a little better than we were the day before." 

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