The New York Giants’ secondary was impressive on opening day against the Tennessee Titans.
Without AJ Brown, the G-Men tightened up in the back end and kept Tennessee’s offense on the ropes through much of the second half. Week 2 will pose a much different challenge though with the Carolina Panthers.
Carolina is coming off a disappointing 26-24 loss to the Cleveland Browns, but that doesn’t mean that they are short on weapons. DJ Moore, Robbie Anderson, Shi Smith (who is questionable for Sunda), Rashard Higgins and Laviska Shenault give the Panthers a deep cast of characters to make plays on the ball.
It also doesn’t help that the Giants will be shorthanded in the secondary.
With Aaron Robinson missing Sunday’s game due to appendix surgery, New York will need to find a second corner to pair with Adoree Jackson. While the team hasn’t announced who would take Robinson’s place on Sunday, defensive backs coach Jerome Henderson understands that it is all hands on deck.
“Sometimes it doesn’t matter if they’re ready or not. It happens. This week, someone has to go in and play between (Cor’Dale) Flott, (Justin) Lane, or (Fabian) Moreau. All those guys have gotten reps. All of them have to be prepared.” Henderson said before Friday’s practice “No matter who plays everyone needs to be ready because they are one play away from the next guy being in.”
The next-man-up approach also applies to the rest of the Giants’ secondary. While captains like Julien Love and Xavier McKinney are expected to shore up the back-end, they’ve also been highly impressed with players that are now being thrown into the fire.
“Cor’Dale (Flott) is playing extremely confident. He was confident this week, he had a really good week of practice. Probably his best week since he’s been here. You see that he’s ready to go.” Love said after Friday’s practice.
Love later added that he expects Flott to play “significantly” on Sunday.
Robinson’s absence is far greater than even some may perceive. The third-year corner out of UCF posted an elite 73.4 grade courtesy of Pro Football Focus.
Robinson gave up just two catches for 27 yards on four targets.
Both Justin Layne and Fabian Moreau are experienced vets who joined the Giants in the offseason with over three years of playing experience. Moreau himself started 16 games last season for the Atlanta Falcons and posted an average 57.7 grade by PFF.
That game experience has been important not just for a potential spot start, but to also help with the younger corners that could be thrown into the spotlight like Flott on Sunday.
“Being comfortable, and taking practice to the game. Focusing on the basics has been something they pick my brain a lot, and I pick theirs. We’ve been able to communicate and talk about stuff like that.” Flott said.
In the end, whoever is chosen to start in place of Robinson will have to go up against a deep receiving core, and a quarterback with a chip on his shoulder.
Baker Mayfield was traded to Carolina from Cleveland because the Browns found a better alternative at quarterback in their eyes. While Mayfield’s revenge on his former team may have fallen short, he’s still a player that can make defenses pay.
Without a starting corner, the adversity for the Giants is already being tested. The leaders of the defensive group feel that they are up to the challenge though.
“This is the first time we’ve had that next-man-up type of mindset. The guys have prepared well. Obviously, we’re going to back them up and support them, but I feel they are ready to go.” Love said.
A young and unproven Giants defense will be tested early on Sunday against the Carolina Panthers.
Whether the next man is ready or not.