The New York Giants‘ starting 11 on defense are all but set in stone. That is, aside from the cornerback gig opposite James Bradberry and the inside linebacker role next to Blake Martinez. However, recent buzz out of training camp may be giving us a better picture of how Big Blue will go about filling those voids.
The Giants Insider took to Twitter on Thursday to highlight some practice observations and none were more eye-catching than word of linebacker Devante Downs and cornerback Jarren Williams “getting serious looks” at camp.
Devante Downs Pushing For Starting LB Job?
It appears that way. NorthJersey.com’s Art Stapleton recently highlighted Downs amongst five under the radar Giants player stepping up in camp, and it doesn’t come without merit.
According to Stapleton, “Downs has gotten some action working with Blake Martinez, among others, and he’s been around the football in various drills.” It’s easy to see why Downs has worked himself into the linebacker competition, as he’s evidently won over head coach Joe Judge, earning his praise in the midst, which is certainly not the easiest of feats.
He’s a guy that comes in, you can see his eyes in meetings, he’s very engaged and focused on you when you’re talking. Whether you’re talking directly to him or somebody else, he’s taking the same coaching point. He comes on the field every day, ‘Yes sir,’ ‘No sir,’ goes to work, does whatever you ask him to do to the best of his ability. I’m enjoying working with him a whole lot.
The 6-foot-2-inch, 252-pound Downs looked well on his way to Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year award honors during his senior year at CAL. He was named the conference’s Defensive Player of the Week twice in the first three weeks of the 2017 season. Unfortunately, a season-ending knee injury during the latter part of that year caused the linebacker to slide down draft boards in 2018.
The Minnesota Vikings ultimately pulled the trigger on the linebacker in the seventh-round. After just two total tackles in his rookie campaign, Downs failed to make the team’s final roster cuts in 2019. He was swiftly added to Minnesota’s practice squad following his release. Downs would be elevated to Minnesota’s active roster ahead of Week 2, only to be waived 10 days later.
The Giants signed Downs to their practice squad on October 1, making his active roster debut in Week 10, playing mostly on special teams for the remainder of the year.
The idea of Downs sliding into the starting defense may sound farfetched, especially with the presence of David Mayo and a healthy Ryan Connelly. However, for all the good Mayo does as a run defender, he’s equally struggled in pass coverage. Connelly, on the other hand, is a fan favorite, yet posted a PFF grade of just 57.1 prior to landing on IR last year with a torn ACL.
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Where Does Jarren Williams Fit into the Giants’ CB Plans
It’s highly likely New York will be putting more on fourth-rounder Darnay Holmes’ plate than previously expected. In return, don’t be surprised to see the former UCLA standout lining up on the boundary come Week 1.
Julian Love would be the logical replacement for Holmes in the slot if he were to move outside. However, the Giants seem somewhat enamored with using him in a hybrid/jack of all trades type of role. Corey Ballentine, another option, was dreadful operating out of the slot last season.
That’s where Williams comes in. Claimed by Big Blue earlier this month, the 5-foot-10-inch, 187-pound small-school corner, may not be challenging for a starting job anytime soon, but he’s in the running to land on the team’s 53. If Williams can prove his worth on special teams, don’t be surprised to see him and his 4.28 speed on display in nickel and dime packages this season.
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