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Yiadom, a third-round pick of the Denver Broncos in the 2018 NFL draft, found out he was being traded to the Giants on September 2, which was also the day he was moving into his new apartment in Denver.
“I told the movers to put everything in the corner,” Yiadom told Giants Wire in an exclusive phone interview. “There were a lot of emotions because I was sad to leave my teammates, but at the same time I was happy that I was getting the chance to come back to the east coast to play for a big-time team like the Giants, who are close to home.”
The Giants brought in Yiadom to compete with Corey Ballentine for the No. 2 cornerback spot. By Week 2, he would take over the majority of the snaps before making his first start of the season the following week against the San Francisco 49ers.
However, this opportunity was short-lived as Yiadom would soon be benched in favor of journeyman pickup Ryan Lewis. Luckily, the Boston College product would not have to wait too long to become a starter again after Lewis landed on injured reserve prior to the Giants’ Week 8 matchup against the future NFC champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Upon returning to the lineup, Yiadom was much better this time around with four passes defensed in an impressive five-game stretch. Overall, Yiadom was able to fill a hole, which was expected to be a much bigger weakness on the Giants’ defense last season.
The third-year man set career-highs in all four categories with: 46 tackles, a half sack and five passes defensed in 10 starts.
So, how was Yiadom able to capitalize on his second chance?
“I just stuck to my routine all season,” he said. “Whether I was playing or not, I was watching film day-and-night and taking the same notes. I was still coming into the locker room and practicing the same way every day, always staying ready.”
Yiadom also mentioned the benefit of playing with a veteran like Logan Ryan, who has knowledge and experience playing every position in the secondary (slot, nickel, corner and safety).
But his biggest influence was Pro Bowl cornerback James Bradberry.
“He’s so calm and poised at the point of attack. It was exciting to play with him. I learned so much from him every single game including things he’d see that I could take advantage of. He’d always share that type of stuff with me,” said Yiadom.
“Bradberry just knows the game so well and the best thing about him is that he never panics. As a cornerback, you can’t panic — and he never panics. He makes the game so easy for himself based off the way he watches film and his approach to the game. He knows everyone expects it from him and he has high expectations for himself.”
Considering how dominant Bradberry’s campaign was last season, it’s fair to question how he could’ve been snubbed from the All-Pro team. But knowing who Bradberry is as a person, Yiadom doesn’t think it bothers him very much at all.
“At the end of the day, he knows he gets paid a lot and played really well this year so as long as he is happy with his play, I don’t think he cares about all of that,” said Yiadom.
“Obviously, playing with a corner like that, I knew I was going to get targeted a lot so it was just a chance for me to make more plays on the ball.”
Unfortunately, Yiadom’s season didn’t end on the highest of notes as he had a rough outing against the Baltimore Ravens. This led the coaching staff to make a change by starting Julian Love at outside corner the following week against the Dallas Cowboys in the team’s final regular season game.
But Yiadom still showed support for his teammates and trusted his coaches enough to not let the decision bother him.
“Our goal is to win at the end of the day and if the coaches decide to play someone over somebody else, they are doing it for a reason. If you get benched and someone is playing over you, you have to find ways to beat that person out,” said Yiadom.
Entering the final year of his rookie deal, Yiadom says he is doing everything in his power to stay with the Giants long-term.
According to Over the Cap, Yiadom’s salary is projected to increase from $954,250 to $2.183 million next season as a result of proven performance escalators for the 2018 draft class, which is based on playing time in their first three seasons.
For now, Yiadom is staying at his place in Florida, where he has been training with his personal defensive backs coach this offseason.
“When I do my DB specific work with my coach out here, it’s honestly trying to work on getting out of my breaks when I’m going full speed and changing directions. That’s what I’m trying to emphasize along with catching the ball to make more plays,” said Yiadom, who is still looking for his second career interception and first since his rookie year.
While Yiadom is training hard in preparation for his contract year, he is also learning how to golf in his spare time.
Interestingly enough, Yiadom took Giants’ pending free-agent and star defensive lineman Leonard Williams with him to play last week.
While they are both still learning, Yiadom claims to have the upper hand on Williams thus far.
Williams will, unfortunately, not have much time to redeem himself as he is heading out to California soon to begin his own training prior to hitting the free-agent market this March.
Regardless of whether Williams remains with the Giants or bolts in free agency, Yiadom believes their team learned how to win last season and will be able to close more games out next year.
“I think we improved a lot by the end of the season. I think we are a young group and we learned how to win towards the end of the season. Next year, we are going to do everything we can to finish more games out,” Yiadom said.
The credit goes to the coaching staff, who like Yiadom, also stuck to the script whether things were going well or not.
“We were coached the same way all season, whether we were winning or losing. We were coached very hard and it helped us go into each game prepared,” he said.
Luckily for Yiadom, he is expected to play at least another year in the same system under defensive coordinator Patrick Graham, who recently signed a long-term extension with the Giants.
“He’s a great coach and a super smart guy. He knows what he’s doing over there, so we are very thankful and supportive of him,” said Yiadom of Graham’s extension.
The Giants will likely look to add to their cornerback group this offseason, but Yiadom is working hard to make sure he is ready to come in and compete for the starting job when the time comes. The defensive back showed resilience in his first year as a Giant, which is something to build off of in year four.