The 2014 offseason brought a lot of changes to the New York Giants‘ roster, especially at the defensive back position. They made a surprising, big-named signing in Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, while also adding Walter Thurmond and Zach Bowman in free agency as well. The Giants did not stop there, adding Notre Dame cornerback Bennett Jackson with their last pick of the 2014 NFL Draft.
Jackson, a former wide receiver with the Fighting Irish, converted to cornerback in his second season with the team. Being a former receiver, Jackson has good size for the cornerback position, with an athletic frame that he can add bulk to if it is necessary.
Like many of the players the Giants targeted in the draft this season, Jackson is a vocal leader and team captain. It is the type of qualities the Giants were looking for in their draftees this year: guys who can come in and help the team right away, instead of players who may have higher ceilings.
Jackson is a good fit for the zone-defense scheme that defensive coordinator Perry Fewell likes to run. He is more instinctive in zone coverage, and his willingness to defend the run will be an asset in that sort of defense. His range is not the greatest, and is lacking an extra gear to make up ground when caught out of position, which makes playing in a zone-heavy scheme extremely beneficial.
While Jackson may be a good fit schematically with the Giants defensively, he will have a hard time cracking the defensive rotation at first. The suspension handed down to Jayron Hosley greatly improves his chances of making the roster, but he still has plenty of players to jump on the depth chart before he would see time on the field. Even with Hosley missing the first four games, at best Jackson will start the season as the sixth cornerback behind Prince Amukamara, Rodgers-Cromartie, Thurmond, Trumaine McBride and Bowman.
Where Jackson can help make an impact on this team will be special teams. The Giants’ special teams have been underwhelming at best in recent history, so having players such as Jackson who are fighting for a roster spot and playing time on the units should improve them. The fringe players such as Jackson know they will have to do the dirty work and succeed to move up the depth chart, and performing on special teams is a good place to start.
With the high-powered offenses the Giants will be playing in the NFC East, and the lack of depth they suffered from last season, they can never have enough defensive backs. While Jackson has a long road ahead of him to see the field on defense, he should still be able to make an impact right from the start.