The Clean Slate Policy decreed by the Giants' new regime has been helpful to many players who come into this season with more baggage than they can fit into an overhead bin. Guys who have had behavioral or attitude issues in the past, guys who have not lived up to on-field expectations, and guys who, for one reason or another, never clicked with the previous coaching staff and front office, have all enjoyed an opportunity to begin anew.
But there are some players for whom starting over isn’t an inherently good thing.
Cornerback Donte Deayon may be one of those players.
The 5-9 cornerback is in his third camp with the Giants. In the previous two, he endeared himself to the defensive coaches so much that he was brought on as a member of the practice squad in 2016 (and even kept in the organization when he was placed on the rarely used practice squad/injured reserve list after getting hurt mid-season) and after starting 2017 on the practice squad was elevated to the active roster in October. His spirit and feistiness fueled not only his teammates but also the Giants’ desire to keep him around.
Virtually every time he was asked about Deayon, former defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo broke into a huge smile.
“I love Double D,” he would say. And by the way the Giants treated him, you believed him. They signed him as an undrafted player from Boise State and nurtured him along to the point where, in a month of service last year before a forearm injury ended his season, he made 10 tackles and had a pass breakup.
Now, though, under the new policy, that mostly intangible resume is blank. He’s no longer a charming rookie story or a bubbly character worth keeping for the esprit de corps, a sprout the Giants hope will blossom into… something. Instead, in the eyes of the current Giants decision-makers, he’s simply Donte Deayon, number 38 on the roster, an undersized cornerback with a drizzle of NFL game experience.
For Deayon, the challenge is to prove again that he belongs.
“The work you put in on the field proves it to them,” Deayon said. “They watch every day, so day in and day out if they see me grinding and being consistent and making plays, it helps. You have to be able to be consistent, be on top of your stuff, and show that you can adjust to anything they give you.”
Deayon is doing that. He picked off two passes thrown by Davis Webb while playing with the second unit over the weekend. He’s also helping develop chemistry with the secondary using his effervescent personality, megastar smile and an enthusiasm that celebrates just about every play made by every player on the defense.
“He’s got good cover skills,” Pat Shurmur said. “He has a knack for getting his hands on the ball. You’ve seen him be a little bit disruptive on some throws and actually get a couple interceptions.”
Shurmur also appears to be getting – and appreciating – that infectious Deayon vibe.
“He must’ve felt like he’s done some lifting this summer,” Shurmur said. “He uncovered his arms [Saturday] so I was giving him some grief about that.”
Despite all the adoration the past team-runners had for him, Deayon was never able to make an opening day roster out of training camp. Both of his previous summers with the Giants ended with a popped bubble, heart-breakingly so last year when he was about 10 minutes away from making the team on cutdown day only to have the Giants trade for veteran corner Ross Cockrell and waive him.
This year’s goal, then, is to make the team for the opener. Injuring his hamstring shortly after an interception in Sunday's practice may hamper that effort if he is sidelined for an extended period of time. Deayon had the injury wrapped and remained with the team for practice, although he did not return to the action afterward.
“I want to do a lot, honestly, but my main goal is just focusing day by day,” he said prior to the injury. “I don’t want to look too far ahead. I’m focusing on the right now, getting better every day, being consistent, and being trustworthy. Learning this defense in and out so I can play fast.”
And showing his new position coach, coordinator and head coach all of the elements that made the previous ones fall in love with him.