Barring injury, the Giants’ first four cornerback slots should be set with Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, Prince Amukamara, Walter Thurmond and Zack Bowman.
Assuming the team keeps five corners, that would leave one spot up for grabs with three very eligible candidates competing.
Trumaine McBride, who filled in nicely as a starter last season, would appear to have the advantage in the three-man race that includes second-year man Charles James and rookie draft pick Bennett Jackson.
McBride started 10 games for the Giants and filled in nicely. Per Pro Football Focus (subscription required), McBride finished with a 57.4 NFL rating, the fifth-best mark among all cornerbacks in the NFL.
However, McBride is a bit of a question mark health-wise moving forward after undergoing hip surgery in January, as first reported by Art Stapleton of The Bergen Record.
If McBride isn’t ready to go by camp, that could open the door for James, who, in addition to being able to play cornerback, is able to contribute on multiple special teams, including as a punt returner.
Per PFF, James, who was elevated to the 53-man roster after Week 4, only played two late-season snaps on defense in 2013.
Lastly, there is Jackson, the rookie who was the Giants’ sixth-round pick this year. At 6’0”, 198 pounds, Jackson is the biggest of the three candidates but is also the least experienced.
Given the depth in front of him, that experience could be sparse, according to cornerbacks coach Peter Giunta.
“He’s a tough kid,” Giunta told reporters. “Unfortunately, because we have so many good players, he’s getting less reps, but he’ll get plenty of reps in training camp.”
Giunta said he likes what little he has seen of Jackson from the spring.
“He has good quickness, good speed; he’s got good size; he’s physical,” he said. “His best thing is being able to hit people and put his hands on people, and we won’t be able to see that until Buffalo.”
McBride is the key to this competition. If he’s healthy and ready to go, he should be the fifth cornerback, just edging out James for a second year in a row.
Jackson, meanwhile, is most likely headed to the practice squad, where, with a year of development, he should be ready to contribute in 2015.