In 2022, the New York Giants had a hard time guarding against some of the best wide receivers in their division.
AJ Brown, DeVonta Smith, Terry McLaurin, and CeeDee Lamb all found success against Big Blue’s back end. It certainly didn’t help that a couple of key injuries played a role in the team’s struggles down the stretch as well.
New York has made important changes to their secondary to help contain some of the NFC East’s top pass catchers. Deonte Banks was selected in the first round and is a big, physical corner that so many teams look for now. Pairing with Adoree Jackson, Banks is considered an up-and-coming player who may need some time to develop and get used to NFL speed. While he has struggled throughout the early stages of camp, people within the Giants organization are very high on the rookie.
“I think he’s done a good job. A young player, competitive. We kind of throw a lot at them, whether that is throw a lot at them on defense, throw a lot at them on offense. He’s a good young player,” Giants’ head coach Brian Daboll said of the first-round rookie.
Banks isn’t the rookie Giants’ cornerback that is turning heads in training camp.
Tre Hawkins III was seen as a project when he got drafted in the sixth round but has since stood out as one of the big winners of training camp. His size (6’2″) is perfect for what the Giants are looking for at the position and is regularly winning battles against the second, and third-team units in camp. Hawkins’ development has been so impressive through the first week that the Giants have now started running him with the first-team defense while moving Jackson to the slot.
Daboll did emphasize that the move-in practice Monday was simply a test and not something that they are planning on running to start the 2023 season. But just because New York isn’t thinking about making a move early in camp doesn’t mean there isn’t promise to the idea.
“He’s done a nice job with the opportunities that he’s given. He’ll get some more. A lot like the young guys, some good, some stuff to improve on. Good young man who works hard. So, he will get some more chances,” Daboll said about Hawkins.
Should New York decide to start Hawkins and Banks outside and Jackson in the slot, the Giants would have the size at corner to run the kind of aggressive system that Wink Martindale wants to run. Martindale wants to blitz as often as possible but if he doesn’t have the players to win one-on-one matchups, his scheme is severely limited. That’s what makes Hawkins’ rise so important. A chance to move Jackson inside will give New York a fair advantage when they have to take on a team like the Cowboys or Commanders who regularly send their best receivers inside.
Of course, starting two rookies will certainly be an issue to start the season as well. Their inexperience would likely lead to plenty of blown coverages and mistakes made that could be chalked to inexperience. As long as Hawkins and Banks improve by the game (or season) the outlook of the team could be a lot stronger if they are given their chance early as possible.
There’s no easy way to build a football team after giving your quarterback a long-term deal with large guarantees. Kansas City last year showed that having strong rookie classes certainly helps with that though. It may be tough going at first, but the development those young players receive is instrumental to preparing them for deep playoff runs and long-term success.
That’s the model the New York Giants should be looking to follow and, by all accounts, they certainly seem interested in doing so as long as Hawkins and Banks continue to show improvement.