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  • Dan Duggan

Adoree' Jackson embodying Giants' unselfish motto in shift to slot corner

All signs point toward the Giants’ healthy starters playing against the Panthers in their second preseason game on Friday night. The Giants starters played the first quarter of their second preseason game last year, so that seems like a reasonable expectation for Friday night.

As you prepare to watch something at least resembling a real game, here are some notes on the Giants:

We > me

Giants personnel have been wearing shirts bearing a simple message during training camp: “We > me.” No one has embodied that maxim better than veteran cornerback Adoree’ Jackson.

The unquestioned top cornerback on the roster, Jackson has selflessly accepted a shift into the slot in sub packages during training camp. If Jackson bristled at making a position change to accommodate two unproven rookies on the outside, it could have created a sticky situation. Instead, the seventh-year veteran has gracefully embraced the change.

“If it’s to help the team, if it’s for the betterment of the team, I’m for that,” Jackson said.

There was a similar dynamic in 2016 when Giants veteran corner Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie was forced to transition into the slot to make room for first-round pick Eli Apple on the outside. Rodgers-Cromartie wasn’t happy about the role change, but he adopted a similar mindset as Jackson and thrived in the slot, earning a second-team All-Pro selection to key one of the league’s best defenses.

The Giants can only hope Jackson’s transition is as successful. But this situation isn’t a carbon copy. Though Apple was a first-round pick like current rookie Deonte Banks, the other outside corner in 2016 was established veteran Janoris Jenkins. This year, Jackson is being pushed inside by the emergence of sixth-round rookie Tre Hawkins.

Hawkins has impressed early in camp, but there are sure to be growing pains for a Day 3 pick out of Old Dominion. Even with Hawkins’ surprising showing, moving Jackson inside likely wouldn’t be a consideration if the slot corners on the roster had performed better. But Darnay Holmes and Cor’Dale Flott have failed to impress, so moving Jackson inside has become a viable option. Barring the acquisition of a slot corner before the start of the season, Jackson, Banks and Hawkins will likely line up against the Cowboys in Week 1.

“In any sub package, you want to play your three best corners,” defensive coordinator Wink Martindale said. “Right now, those are our three best corners.”

The previous regime gave serious consideration to moving Jackson into the slot before the 2021 draft when perimeter cornerbacks Patrick Surtain and Jaycee Horn were potential first-round targets. But those players were off the board before the Giants were on the clock with the 11th pick, so Jackson remained outside.

Jackson played in the slot on 9.6 percent of his snaps last season, which was in line with his usage in previous seasons. He mostly played in the slot in the past when he was shadowing an opposing team’s No. 1 wide receiver all over the field. It will be different to primarily play inside in sub packages (Jackson and Banks should be the outside corners in the base defense, with Hawkins entering in sub packages and Jackson bumping inside).

The 5-foot-11, 185-pound Jackson has the quickness to cover slot receivers. But playing inside is a different challenge, with the sideline no longer serving as an additional defender. And defending the run is far more physically demanding in the slot than on the perimeter, which has to be weighed for a player with Jackson’s injury history.

Willingly accepting a new position that has new challenges and more physical pounding is truly a team-first act, especially as Jackson enters the final year of his contract. There’s a major gulf in the pay for outside corners and slot corners, and Jackson is risking being viewed as a slot corner as he approaches his last opportunity for a big payday. We > me, indeed.

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