As soon as the official news broke that James Bradberry was no longer on the Giants’ roster, a message came through on the defensive backs’ text chain. It was created by Adoree’ Jackson, and it sent a clear signal to the remaining cornerbacks, encouraging them not to wither under the heat of critical scrutiny now that the leader of the pack was gone.
Bradberry was released so the Giants could earn $10.1 million in salary-cap relief. The new front office and coaching staff recognized that this would be a better team with Bradberry, but the finances just didn’t add up.
What was left behind? A group of cornerbacks, which outsiders are eager to surround as a reason the 2022 Giants’ defense won’t be up to the task.
“It’s just an opportunity for us as individuals to do what we need to do and step up and play and do something for ourselves,” Jackson said of his message to his teammates. “Because the situation is going to hit us all, whether we like it or not. Go out there and do what you can do and compete and make it hard for them not to want to make those changes.”
Thus, Jackson moved up the pecking order, from CB2 to CB1. That will be a daunting challenge — for Jackson, for new defensive coordinator Wink Martindale, for returning cornerbacks coach Jerome Henderson and for new head coach Brian Daboll. Martindale requires cornerbacks to play aggressive man coverage, a departure from the preponderance of zone defenses used by the Giants in 2021.
At the start of his NFL career, tying Jackson to a top-tier cornerback job was realistic, but it didn’t live up to that anticipated billing, and today, he’s going to have to do a lot to be seen as a cornerback. good faith no. 1
“It’s me believing in myself and the confidence that I’ve put into the job,” Jackson said. “Confidence comes from being mentally and physically prepared, so no matter what the situation is, no matter what the task is, you go out there and you’re confident in your preparation and you’re mentally prepared for what you’re doing, the sky’s the limit. At the end of the day, it’s up to you.”
Jackson was the 18th overall pick in the 2017 draft, a big hit out of USC, and became an immediate starter for the Titans, with mixed success, until a knee injury limited him to just three games. in 2020 and was released. The Giants, with money to burn, signed a three-year, $39 million contract in free agency, a deal instantly criticized as exorbitant by most talent evaluators.
Jackson played in 13 games in his Giants debut in 2021, missing time late in the season with a quad injury. Although he is best remembered for dropping what should have been a game-sealing interception in the end zone in a Week 3 loss to the Falcons, he was actually an effective player. Pro Football Focus rated him the No. 15 cornerback in the NFL, and his coverage rating was fourth best, behind only Jalen Ramsey, AJ Terrell and Darius Slay. By comparison, Bradberry ranked 58th among all cornerbacks, a year off after a 2020 Pro Bowl season with the Giants.
Henderson said he doesn’t see any player like “CB1” and asked Jackson, who is only 26, to mentor younger players including Aaron Robinson, Rodarius Williams, Darnay Holmes and rookie Cor’Dale Flott. .
“Be that guy who takes them under your wing and talks about your development and how you got here,” Henderson said. “Getting a second contract in this league is a big deal, and the second contract he got is a big deal. Help them have that career so they can win that second contract like he did.”
Jackson reached out to Bradberry in their only season as teammates and admitted it was “devastating” to see him go.
“But at the end of the day, I gained a brother in the process of meeting him,” Jackson said. “It’s like your brother going off to college. He is my brother, he goes somewhere else but at the same time he is still in contact with him and happy for him.”
Jackson is planning a jersey change when the Giants play Bradberry’s new team. That will be twice this season, as Bradberry signed with the Eagles, a heated NFC East rival.
“That sucks,” Jackson said.
Bradberry’s task, running with opponents’ best receivers, will now fall to Jackson.
“Obviously, if you get a role, you have to believe that you can do it,” Jackson said, “and do it to the best of your ability.”