Cracking the Giants secondary as an opposing offense is a tough challenge. Even more difficult? Cracking them as a newcomer to the group.
Valentino Blake has been able to do that.
The free agent cornerback is in his first training camp with the team and while his primary job has been to pick up the playbook and learn the defense, he’s also had to work his way into one of the tightest social circles on the team.
The cornerbacks and safeties, dubbed the NYPD or New York Pass Defense after last year’s impressive season, seem to have a new officer.
“It hasn’t been a problem at all,” Blake told Newsday on Tuesday. “They’re pretty down-to-earth guys. Professional. Hard workers. It’s about going about your business. If you go about your business and know your plays and everything, they’ll accept you.”
Blake seems to have that covered. He had an interception in Friday’s preseason opener against the Steelers and has been active in practices. On Tuesday, he broke up a would-be touchdown pass in a red zone drill.
“He’s a very strong cat, a very physical guy,” safety Darian Thompson said. “He has fun out there and he’s fast. We feel like he’s a good addition to our defense.”
The Giants are Blake’s fourth NFL team in six seasons. He started out as an undrafted rookie with the Jaguars in 2012, spent three years with the Steelers, where he became a starter in 2015, and spent last season with the Titans. That path has allowed him to grow accustomed to fitting in with new teammates.
“Anytime you come to a new team you have to take your time to get everything in order,” he said. “I didn’t think it took long at all to get acclimated to the guys here. The energy up here, it’s a great environment so it didn’t take long to get acclimated. They have a great locker room, the guys up here are fun to be around. To me, it was an easy process.”
Blake is competing with a few other players for a spot on the team. Michael Hunter and Donte Deayon, two cornerbacks who were on the team last summer and with them on the practice squad in 2016, are also in that mix. Blake has the edge in overall experience, the others in Giants experience.
That’s changing by the day, though.
“Coming into this whole deal, it’s a great secondary with some Pro Bowl guys, All-Pro guys, so there’s not really pressure,” Blake said. “I come in and those guys have been doing their thing. I can learn from them, watch, and see how to get to the next level. I’m just coming here to learn and work every day. Whenever my number is called and whatever they want me to do, I’ll try to do it to the best of my abilities.”
So has Blake earned his shield from the NYPD?
“I believe so,” he said. “We’re gonna see. We’re working on it.”