Giants Could Play Veteran Wide Receiver at Cornerback

Giants WR Johnny Holton has history playing CB

Getty Wide receiver James Washington #13 and wide receiver Johnny Holton #80

The New York Giants secondary has endured quite the drastic makeover in just the past week. Wednesday’s trade to acquire former third-round pick Isaac Yiadom from the Denver Broncos capped a six-day stretch in which Big Blue added a total of four new defensive backs to their roster, Logan Ryan, Brandon Williams and KeiVarae Russell being the others.

However, could they have actually sneaked a fifth new face into their secondary over that period?

Johnny Holton Had Previously Been Moved from WR to CB

Wide Reciever Johnny Holton was the less-heralded of two signings by the Giants early Wednesday morning, as a reunion with former starting center Jon Halapio stole the headlines. However, there’s a solid chance the veteran wideout carves at a fairly important role in New York, although that role may not be on the offensive side of the ball.

An undrafted free agent out of Cincinnati, Holton spent the first two seasons of his then-Oakland Raiders tenure as a bottom-dweller in the Silver and Black’s passing attack, hauling in just 11 passes for 252 yards and three touchdowns.

Holton would go on to be waived ahead of his third season in the league, only to later be re-signed to Oakland’s practice squad, but with a twist. Offensive coordinator Greg Olsen announced that Holton would be switching positions, moving to cornerback, a position that Holton had never previously played in his life. Olsen noted that Holton is “just a valuable football player” and envisioned the move as Holton’s best shot of making his way back to the active roster due to the team’s logjam at wide receiver.

Olsen was only half right, Holton was promoted to the active roster ahead of Week 12, but at his old position of wide receiver, the position he’s remained at ever since.

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Is the Holton Signing New York’s Answer to the Cody Core Injury?

When the Giants lost Cody Core to a season-ending knee injury earlier this offseason, they not only lost depth at the wideout position, but also a player who head coach Joe Judge deemed “one of the best special teams players in the league.”

The hope in New York is that Holton can help fill both voids left behind by Core. After his experimental 2018 campaign with the Raiders, Holton latched on with the Pittsburgh Steelers in 2019, appearing in all 16 games. His production as a receiver, hauling in just three receptions for 21 yards, will certainly not make the Sterling Shepards and Golden Tates of the world quiver in their cleats in concern of losing targets. With that said, he does add an intriguing vertical presence as a receiver.

Holton saw the second-highest percentage of targets that were 20-plus yards downfield last season among all qualified wide receivers, per Pro Football Focus.

While that’s a nice bonus, that’s not why he was brought to New York.

Like Holton, Core also caught a mere three receptions in 2019, but it was his team-leading eight tackles on 283 special teams snaps where he made his presence felt. Holton clocked in not far behind, posting 271 special teams snaps with the Steelers last season.

Will Holton make waves in the Giants passing game this year? Likely not. Will he play cornerback for New York in 2020? If he does, chances are the season has not gone the G-Men’s way. With that said, his short-lived stint on the defensive side of the ball and ability to stretch the field vertically on offense are just more ammo towards his case of making Big Blue’s opening roster.

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