James Bradberry provided the blueprint for Adoree’ Jackson.
Now it’s on Jackson to follow his lead.
If Jackson proves to be a good study and duplicates in 2021 what Bradberry did in 2020, the Giants have a chance to field one of the top cornerback tandems in the NFL.
That is the vision of head coach Joe Judge and his defensive coordinator Patrick Graham.
A year ago, Bradberry was one of the Giants’ marquee offseason acquisitions. He was signed to a three-year, $43.5 million free-agent contract with $32 million guaranteed and he delivered beautifully, playing well enough to close his season out by being selected for the Pro Bowl.
Enter Jackson, who was signed to a three-year, $39 million contract this offseason with $24.5 guaranteed after he was released by the Titans, who drafted him in the first round in 2017.
All Bradberry did in his first season with the Giants — under the hot spotlight of a larger market than Carolina, where he came from, and the large contract he signed — was produce career highs with three interceptions, 18 passes defensed and two forced fumbles.
That’s called handling expectations and pressure with aplomb.
“For a guy who was a high-profile signing last year, it’s natural [for] players [to wonder], ‘What’s this guy’s story going to be? How’s he going to work?’ ’’ Judge said Friday. “James has really done a really good job for us. He’s a good teammate, he’s very intelligent, he works very hard, he produces on the field, he’s very coachable.’’
Bradberry said has been used to dealing with pressure, which may explain his stellar season last year.
“I feel like I’ve always had pressure,’’ he said. “Where the pressure came from is different. When I was a rookie, the pressure was to play alongside [Panthers linebackers] Luke Kuechly and Thomas Davis. When I got into my third year, it was pressure to get that next contract.
“And now that I’m here, it’s a bigger market and as a key free agent, guys are looking to me to be a leader and make plays, so that’s a different kind of pressure that I hadn’t had in the past.’’
Bradberry conceded to “exceeding’’ his own personal expectations in his first season with the Giants.
“This a new year, so I’m excited to see what I can do this year,’’ he said. “Typically, guys get better when they have another year in the system. I just know I’m more comfortable with the system and I’m more comfortable with the people around me.’’
A good bit of Bradberry’s focus during this training camp has been to make Jackson comfortable so his transition to a new team looks as seamless as his own did a year ago.
“I’ll try to help him with the system, help him any way I can,’’ Bradberry said. “You can see he’s very, very athletic with a lot of different movements and running in general isn’t hard for him, because he’s naturally a gifted athlete.’’
On paper, Jackson looks like a perfect complement to Bradberry on the opposite side of the field in that he’s a completely different kind of cornerback with his own unique skill set.
The 27-year-old Bradberry is 6-foot-1, 212 pounds and proved himself to be a proper shut-down corner last season.
The 25-year-old Jackson is a 5-11, 185 pounds and a shifty burner with 4.42 speed in the 40 who can play inside and outside.
The addition of Jackson to play opposite of Bradberry should allow Graham to play more man coverage, something he didn’t employ as much of as he’d like to have in 2020.
“In our system, we want to be able to play man [coverage], when it comes to third down, red [zone] area, two-minute [defense],” Graham told reporters at last month’s minicamp. “In this league, you’re going to have to play some version of man at some point.’’
The Giants played man coverage on only 33.1-percent of opponents’ drop-backs last year, the second-fewest in the league, according to ESPN Stats & Information.
They never found a dependable cover corner to play opposite of Bradberry, starting four different players there, including Corey Ballentine and Ryan Lewis, neither of whom is still on the team.
Jackson is coming off a 2020 season in which he played only three games because of a knee injury.
“It was a rough year for me,’’ he said. “I’d never been injured and to not be able to do the things you love is tough. I was trying to stay strong.’’
Because he did, he’s now in position to make the Giants’ defense stronger … if he follows the Bradberry blueprint.