Home Sports Janoris Jenkins touchdown fitting prelude to James Bradberry’s Giants debut

Janoris Jenkins touchdown fitting prelude to James Bradberry’s Giants debut

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As Janoris Jenkins punctuated an interception of Tom Brady by striding into the end zone, the spotlight on James Bradberry grew just a little bit larger.

Bradberry was supposed to be the missing piece for a remade Giants secondary – a lockdown No. 1 cornerback to replace the enigmatic Jenkins – when he signed a three-year, $43.5 million contract in free agency. Instead he looks more like the first piece to start another rebuild after an offseason when the pressure on him kept mounting through none of his own doing.

In that way, Jenkins’ touchdown Sunday for the New Orleans Saints – the 10th of his career, most among active NFL defensive players – was a fitting culmination leading into Bradberry’s Giants debut Monday against the Pittsburgh Steelers. Can Bradberry take the next step and become a Pro Bowler, like each of the five corners around the league with a higher average annual salary?

“I try not to pay attention to outside noise,” said Bradberry, who spent his first four seasons with the Panthers. “Even when I was in Carolina, they put a lot of, I wouldn’t say pressure – but they asked me to go out and guard the No. 1 receivers. I have been doing that for a while now. I just try to go about my own business. That’s all I can do: Play to the best of my ability.”

The Giants cut Jenkins after he used a derogatory slur toward a fan on social media last December. Had that not happened, Jenkins likely still would’ve been a salary-cap casualty in the offseason.

Giants James Bradberry, Janoris Jenkins
James Bradberry, Janoris JenkinsRobert Sabo; AP

The swap to Bradberry, 27, allowed the Giants to get younger and add consistency and a lead-by-example nature. At the same time, they forfeited much of the bravado typically fostered by the mano-a-mano responsibility of playing on an island.

“He gives you a big, long body that has played against No. 1s,” said Giants general manager Dave Gettleman, who drafted Bradberry in Carolina. “He has the mindset, he’s not shy and the moment is not too big for him.”

Jenkins insisted on covering the best receivers and criticized coaches when the scheme glued him to one side of the field regardless of his matchup. It was enviable confidence but demonstrated a lack of understanding that young cornerbacks DeAndre Baker and Sam Beal needed simplified assignments for the whole construct to work together.

By contrast, Bradberry oozes humility and famously was fixing his mother’s toilet when he was drafted in the second round out of Samford University.

“I take a lot of pride in just getting the job done,” Bradberry said.

Beal exercised the NFL’s COVID-19 opt-out clause and the Giants released the arrested Baker, removing two high draft picks and leaving Bradberry to play opposite the unproven duo of Isaac Yiadom and Corey Ballentine. Cornerback is the Giants’ glaring season-opening weakness for the second straight year.

The Steelers make for a revealing Week 1 opponent because defensive coordinator Patrick Graham had to decide whether Bradberry would shadow JuJu Smith-Schuster to both sides of the field and into the slot or stay put. Diontae Johnson and deep threat James Washington made up the other two-thirds of a dangerous trio.

“I’m a football player,” Bradberry said. “You have to be comfortable being uncomfortable, so wherever they want me to line up, I’m going to play ball.”

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