It’s usually the bigger guys, the linemen or the linebackers, who are giddy to put the pads on and get more physical in practice. Yet one of the Giants’ smaller players, rookie cornerback DeAndre Baker, is champing at the bit to get his hands on his teammates.
“We want the pads on,” Baker said Thursday after the Giants’ third minicamp practice. “We can tackle, get more physical with the pads on. I love the pads.”
Rookie wide receiver Darius Slayton, who in his time at Auburn faced Baker’s Georgia squad, knows that’s where he’s best.
“I definitely think, I would say to a degree [he’s] probably playing with one hand behind his back,” Slayton said. “I feel like that’s probably his strongest point, being able to press up on guys, and just straight lock them down.”
In street clothes, Baker’s 5-foot-11, 193-pound frame does not match his playing style on the field. However, his “sneaky” strength, as Slayton put it, helped Baker become one of the top-rated cornerbacks in college, allowing just 470 receiving yards and zero touchdowns against him in coverage in 27 games his final two years at Georgia.
The Giants traded up into the first round to draft Baker in large part due to his aggressive, physical style — especially at the line of scrimmage — and envision he will come in and start right away, or at least be a major contributor on coordinator James Bettcher’s defense. He has alternated between the first and second teams during minicamp.
“He is very competitive, he’s very tough,” coach Pat Shurmur said. “The corners are at a little bit of a disadvantage this time of year because there is no bump-and-run. And part of his charm was his ability to get up and crawl up [to] a receiver and bump him. We even think we’re going to see more good stuff once training camp starts.’’
Whatever Baker’s role in the defense is, his upbringing in the Liberty City neighborhood of Miami, has prepared him to work for what he wants.
“In Liberty City you gotta kind of grab whatever you want,” Baker said. “Whatever I want to do I work for. I don’t really look for handouts or anything like that. That helped me to this day, coming out on the practice field you gotta work hard to get what you want, so I gotta work my way up the depth chart.”