Giants digging deep for cornerback help for Cowboys challenge

Wink Martindale has learned the hard way to get dinner delivered, to prepare his cornerbacks and to avoid confusing the two.

The Giants find themselves in a situation this week that must seem eerily familiar to Martindale, who oversaw the collapse of the Ravens defense late last season as injuries to starting cornerbacks forced reinforcements to play. He joked in hindsight a few months into his role as defensive coordinator for the Giants that the slip-up that preceded his exit after nine more successful seasons in Baltimore taught him “don’t go to DoorDash to find a backup corner.”

Apparently, Nick McCloud came to the Giants from waiver wire and the trio of Darnay Holmes, Rodarius Williams and Cor’Dale Flott came via the last three drafts. With Adoree’ Jackson sidelined and Fabian Moreau out of practice, that foursome will likely be the cornerback facing Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott, who completed 72.3 percent of his passes with eight touchdowns and three interceptions and 107, 7 in four games since his return from injury.

“You’re either up for the challenge or you’re not,” said Holmes. “The way we are preparing, we are definitely ready to show our talent against a great team. I put a lot on myself so it’s just another game for me.

Darnay Holmes
Robert Sabo

It would be difficult for McCloud, Williams or Flott to say the same. They have played fewer combined defensive snaps (233) than Holmes (367) this season. Rookie Flott missed five games with a calf injury and Williams made his season debut returning from a torn ACL last week.

When Jackson injured his knee, Flott was first up. He has rotated by series with Williams. McCloud then replaced Moreau (oblique) at the other end of the field.

“Definitely critical shots for team morale: two good players and two good leaders in the room,” said McCloud. “But it’s a next-man mentality.”

McCloud knows Prescott is probably licking his lips because he saw Aaron Rodgers do it. On the first play after McCloud filled in for an injured Jackson against the Packers on October 18. 9, Rodgers completed a 17-yard pass aiming for the second crossbar. Two snaps later, McCloud was called for a penalty. But McCloud had the last laugh with a diving pass breakup, and when a late pass in the direction of him was batted at the line of scrimmage to essentially seal a Giants win.

“Aaron Rodgers came to me, but I settled down and started playing better. I expect some of the same things,” McCloud said. “Going out there and making plays to help the team win first gives me confidence to try and do it again.”

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Darnay Holmes
Robert Sabo
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Lions wide receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown (14) throws the ball to New York Giants cornerback Rodarius Williams (25).
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The cornerbacks’ outfield points are “interchangeable,” Flott said, so the game plan won’t necessarily dictate that the same player line up every snap on the left side or right side, field or boundary side, or against the same receiver as the cornerbacks. Cowboys.

“They have a good group,” Flott said. “You have to look at them all closely, respect them all equally. You can’t put one on a pedestal and not worry about the others.”

Michael Gallup is a former 1,100-yard receiver and veteran Noah Brown is having a career year, but CeeDee Lamb is one of the NFL’s elite. He plays 46.4 percent of his snaps in the slot—where Holmes resides—unless the Cowboys move him to the perimeter to capitalize on inexperience.

“CeeDee is a guy who consistently elevates himself every year,” Holmes said. “Large catch range, sudden [quickness] and love the ball. As a contestant, you wouldn’t want to go against any other guy but him.

The Giants play by far the most man-to-man coverage (50 percent snaps) of any team in the NFL. But sticking with his blitz-heavy packs that leave cornerbacks on an island is what got Martindale in trouble last season. He promised to have “a scheme that’s flexible enough to make some changes if you’ve got a guy who hasn’t played a lot of time.”

Will it be huh?

“We are all quiet people and have the same focused mentality whether we are playing or not,” Flott said. “We trust Wink. We just want it to be him. As he always tells us, he will keep us composed.

With less time to practice in a short week, the young cornerbacks watched the movie together early in the morning and stayed up late after practice.

“Your victories can definitely allow you to play more freely and your lessons allow you to play smarter,” said Holmes. “I feel like we will keep the ball rolling and play whatever calls our ‘OG’ Wink calls. We know how we should run the system no matter who is out there.

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