There’s no question that the New York Giants secondary is one of the more concerning position groups along their roster. The additions of big-ticket free agent James Bradberry and 2nd-round steal Xavier McKinney will almost certainly help a unit that ranked 5th-worst in football against the pass a season ago.
However, the offseason arrest of 2019 1st-round selection, cornerback DeAndre Baker, extremely dampened the improvements New York has made on the backend. Baker, who struggled mightily for the majority of his rookie season, came along towards the latter part of the year, flexing the type of skillset that made him such a sought after draft prospect just a few months prior.
With Baker’s playing status up in the air for the start of the 2020 season, many have pointed towards hybrid corner/safety Julian Love and former supplemental draft pick Sam Beal as the logical DBs to see an uptick in playing time. However, 2nd-year pro, Corey Ballentine, might have something to say about that.
Corey Ballentine In-Line to Start at CB?
Bleacher Report’s Brent Sobleski certainly believes there’s a chance, as he pegged Ballentine as the “Surprise Starter to Emerge” for the Giants this coming season.
New York Giants: CB Corey Ballentine
The New York Giants signed James Bradberry to a three-year, $43.5 million free-agent contract this offseason, but that won’t solve all of the unit’s secondary issues.
DeAndre Baker’s standing with the team and league remains up in the air after he was arrested on four counts of armed robbery with a firearm and four counts of aggravated assault. However, his attorneys say they have sworn affidavits from two witnesses that state the cornerback didn’t rob or point a gun at anyone, per the New York Post‘s Paul Schwartz.
As of now, the Giants must operate under the assumption Baker will miss games this season.
Corey Ballentine and Sam Beal are the logical replacement options. While Ballentine struggled as a rookie, he could excel as a true outside corner after being moved inside a year ago to cover the slot.
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Corey Ballentine vs. Sam Beal
As Sobleski notes above, Ballentine was the victim of playing out of position during his rookie campaign. Standing at nearly 6-feet tall, the former Washburn star is a long-limed corner who excels in man-to-man coverage on the outside. Yet, with the Giants secondary riddled with injuries a season ago, New York called upon Ballentine to step into the nickel back role, in retrospect, a failed experiment.
After playing no more than nine defensive snaps in a game from Week 1 through Week 6, Ballentine was tossed into the fire, playing an average of nearly 50 defensive snaps per game from Week 7 through 12. The results were less than desirable, as he finished his rookie season with an extremely underwhelming Pro Football Focus overall grade of just 36.6.
With that said, during the 2019 preseason, Ballentine was given the opportunity to operate on the outside, and the results were vastly different. The corner registered three passes defended over the first three weeks, as well as snagging a beautiful interception off the New York Jets, which can be seen below:
Rookies came to play. pic.twitter.com/qgZqzUxFEl
— New York Giants (@Giants) August 9, 2019
Ballentine’s likely top competition this offseason, Sam Beal, wasn’t much better in 2019. After an injury-filled start to his career, Beal finally took the field this past season. While he flashed at moments, the results were mostly underwhelming. According to PFF, Beal allowed one touchdown in 20 pass targets against him, posting a 104.3 NFL rating.
If Baker ultimately winds up suspended to start the beginning of the season, chances are it will come down to either Ballentine or Beal as to whom will start opposite of James Bradberry in Big Blue’s base defense. And if that player just so happens to impress during that period, chances are he may just hold on to that job, even after Baker makes his return.