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Giants’ James Bradberry emerging as one of top corners in the NFL

Giants’ James Bradberry emerging as one of top corners in the NFL

megha rajpoot
Giants’ James Bradberry emerging as one of top corners in the NFL

One thing is missing from James Bradberry’s budding résumé — and it isn’t participating in “engaging activities.”

Bradberry, 27, signed a three-year free-agent contract with the Giants that gave him the seventh-highest average annual salary ($14.5 million) at his position. He has lived up to the investment through five games, leading the NFL with nine passes defended as the league’s second-highest graded cornerback by Pro Football Focus.

It’s the Giants’ most Pro Bowl-worthy performance — except the NFL just canceled this season’s Pro Bowl (for the first time since 1949) because of COVID-19 and announced it will be replaced by star players in “a variety of engaging activities.” No worries. Fans, players and coaches still will vote for Pro Bowlers in name only, so Bradberry still has a chance to put the title in front of his name for the overdue first time.

“I wouldn’t say it’s important to me,” Bradberry told The Post. “It’s on the list of accolades I want to achieve before I’m done playing football, but the most important thing to me is the wins. Everything else will come down the line. If we are winning, we will get more recognition off the field. That’s when you start getting Pro Bowls, All-Pros and things like that.”

James Bradberry and Ron Rivera
Ron Rivera said he believes James Bradberry can be a top corner in the NFL.N.Y. Post: Charles Wenzelberg;

Perhaps no one knows Bradberry’s capabilities better than the coach walking the opposite sideline Sunday: Washington’s Ron Rivera and Bradberry were together for four seasons with the Panthers. So, is Bradberry playing at an even higher level now than when he regularly faced Julio Jones, Michael Thomas and Mike Evans in NFC South matchups?

“He is,” Rivera said. “He’s one of my favorites. This guy competed at the highest level against the highest-level players, Sure, he might’ve gotten beaten once in a while, but he would come back, line up and he would be physical.

“He’s a guy that I knew would get a good opportunity — and really I think he’s a guy that the more he works at it, the more reps he gets, the better and better he keeps getting.”

Bradberry has allowed just 15 receptions on 28 targets while mostly shadowing opponents’ top receivers, including limiting the Cowboys’ Amari Cooper to two catches for 23 yards last week.

“Credit to the coaches: They are putting together a good game plan week-in and week-out,” Bradberry said. “The offense over there is multi-faceted with many weapons. Whenever my name was called and it was time to line up against Cooper, I feel like I did my job.”

No argument from the Giants.

“James is held in high regard throughout the league,” defensive coordinator Patrick Graham said. “People respect him because of his play.

“The ball skills are there, the way he breaks up passes. His reaction and his anticipation are there, that helps us in terms of when we’re in our zone coverages. In man coverage, his ability to stay with his man and have good eye control makes it [so] you’re not worried about his side of the field or that guy.”

Bradberry admittedly didn’t do much research into Graham’s scheme during free agency. He was confident he could play in any system after blossoming with Carolina.

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“That whole coaching staff taught me a lot about football,” Bradberry said. “[Rivera] was more than a coach. He talked to us about bringing your family around the facility and the importance of being a man and being there for your family. He did a lot for me off the field, too.”

Next up for Bradberry is likely Washington’s Terry McLaurin.

“He’s a young guy, but I definitely have a lot of respect for his game,” Bradberry said. “Explosive receiver, goes hard on every play, no matter what route is called, attacks the ball. We’ll definitely have our eyes open facing him.”

Good choice of words: Bradberry is doing plenty of eye-opening himself.

“I think I’ve still got some more room to grow,” Bradberry said. “I don’t think my game has increased a huge gap between this year and last year. I feel like I developed well each year while I was in Carolina, but you always want to take your game to another level.”

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