When receiver Anthony Dable jumped high in the air and pulled in a touchdown pass during one-on-one drills in the red zone during Giants training camp this week, Donte Deayon had the best view of the play. Because he was the “on-one,” the defensive back covering the 6-4 rookie receiver on the play. Deayon had good coverage and good technique on the route and was in position to defend it. He just couldn’t.
There are certain things a 5-foot-9 cornerback just cannot do.
This preseason, Deayon is looking to prove that’s a short list. The undrafted rookie from Boise State has been impressive in training camp for the Giants and will make his pro debut Friday night against the Dolphins in the preseason opener.
It’s the next step toward him making an NFL roster, something few people thought he was equipped to do given his lack of height and weight (he’s listed at 158, nearly 30 pounds lighter than the second-lightest Giant in camp, Matt Smalley, at 184).
“There are a lot of people who think I can’t play at this level,” he told Newsday. “I just want to go out there and prove people wrong and reach my full potential. I believe I can do it.”
The Giants seem open to being convinced.
“He plays bigger than that,” cornerbacks coach Tim Walton said of Deayon’s size. “There’s been small guys who played well in the league before, so that doesn’t bother me. There are some big guys that play small and some small guys that play big.”
Deayon appears to be the latter.
“He’s doing a great job,” Walton said. “Very knowledgeable kid, very competitive, understands football and loves to play and bring great energy. We really like what he’s doing so far.”
Deayon said the way he tries to make up for his physical shortcomings is through preparation and intensity. He is a bookworm with the defensive schemes and proudly noted that he has made just one mental error all through training camp, which happened on the first day.
“Technique and playing fast, and that all comes from studying,” he said of how he compensates. “That really helps a lot rather than waiting and being on my heels and getting the fight brought to me.”
He’s also had some more impressive reps than the one where Dable essentially posterized him. In a one-on-one drill during a competition period in practice this week, receiver Darius Powe seemed to catch a touchdown on him but Deayon stuck with the play and knocked the ball out before it was a completed pass. Later in the week, he went up against K.J. Maye on a fade route in the end zone on the final snap of a two-minute drill for third-stringers. Deayon batted that pass away and preserved the win for the defense.
The Giants have been lining him up outside and inside – physically he is better suited to the slot but he has more experience outside – and also trying him on special teams. His chances of competing for the nickel job got a bit slimmer when the Giants signed veteran free agent Leon Hall last week, but there still are places on the roster for him to strive toward. On Friday, he’ll get to see how he measures up against other NFL players trying to make the Dolphins. He knows he’ll be one of the shortest and definitely the lightest guy on the field, but he’s overcome those obstacles before.
“There were a lot of people saying: ‘What? He’s only 140 pounds, how can he play Division I football?’” Deayon said of his even less impressive weight when he arrived at Boise State as a freshman. “You have to rise up to the occasion. It’s always fun when your name is called and you are like: ‘All right, let’s go.’”