EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – Corey Ballentine’s rapid development took another step forward today when he was called on to take first-team reps in practice following a knee injury to fellow rookie cornerback DeAndre Baker.
But Ballentine demurred when asked if he expected to be ready to run with the starters so quickly.
“I didn’t really look at it like that,” said the sixth-round draft choice from Washburn University. “I was just trying to improve. I got here a little late and I was trying to learn the playbook, get to know my teammates, and get out there and do the best I could. I wasn’t really looking to be in any specific spot, but just to do my best and help wherever the coaches need me.”
Ballentine intercepted a pass in the Giants’ 31-22 preseason-opening victory against the Jets, continuing a knack for stealing the ball he has displayed throughout training camp. His consistent playmaking is why the coaches didn’t hesitate to move him up to the first team when Baker’s injury created a vacancy.
“I’ve said it all along, he’s a very competitive, tough guy, and because that’s his nature, when we’re playing the uncontrolled game of football, he shows up,” coach Pat Shurmur said. “That’s why he’s out there. He’s done a good job to this point. We’re hopeful that he’ll stay on the same track and keep getting better.”
Baker, the last of the Giants’ three first-round draft choices, left the field after spraining his left knee during non-contact individual drills early in Sunday’s practice. Baker had an MRI today and will undergo further evaluation tomorrow.
“In his individual warmup type stuff, something with his knee,” Shurmur said. “We’re just checking it out (with) an MRI. … (It happened) just kind of in the warmup drills. He just felt something.”
Baker has been the starting left corner since soon after his arrival in May.
“Obviously, I wish him the best,” Ballentine said. “I don’t know what happened to him, but I’m always ready to step up whenever I’m called on. It felt good to go out there with the ones and get some reps and some practice running with a faster-paced offense. I’m just taking it day by day trying to improve and not take it for granted.”
Although Ballentine has earned plenty of notice for his camp performance, he believes he’s only scratched the surface of his potential.
“There are always areas of improvement for myself,” he said. “I went out there and I made a play, but I’m not perfect. I still messed up a little bit. I’m always looking to clean up the little mistakes I made and go out there and communicate and play the best I can. I can only control what I can control. I just go out there and not look at it as, ‘Oh, he made a play, so he’s here now.’ I look at it as I can always get better and continue to improve, and hopefully there is more.”
*Eli Manning and rookie Daniel Jones were the only quarterbacks to take snaps in team drills in practice day, as Alex Tanney and Kyle Lauletta were limited to spectator roles.
“I just didn’t work the third group,” Shurmur said. “We were short some numbers, so I just didn’t work the threes. That’s less about the quarterbacks and more about the guys that weren’t practicing in the other positions.”
*Manning had another in a camp-long series of productive and efficient days throwing the ball.
“I thought he did a great job,” Shurmur said. “I think he’s practiced well throughout (training camp). Now, after I’ve watched him (during) this three-week stretch, I think he’s throwing the ball better than he did last summer. He’s got a real good grasp of what we want to do offensively. He had another good day out there.”
Manning’s most impressive pass was a completion down the left sideline to Cody Latimer, who got behind Ballentine on the play.
*Sean Chandler picked off a Jones pass in a red zone drill that was intended for Da’Mari Scott.
*Wide receiver Sterling Shepard (thumb) and cornerback Grant Haley (shoulder) continue to practice in yellow pinnies, signaling they should have little or no contact.
*Offensive lineman Nick Gates was flagged for three penalties in the game, but he has made a mostly positive impression in camp. Gates joined the team last year as a rookie free agent from Nebraska and spent the entire season on injured reserve with a foot injury. He is a natural guard who was called on to play tackle vs. the Jets because of injuries to Chad Wheeler and Brian Mihalik.
“Obviously, he had the two holding calls,” Shurmur said. “Those of us that watched, there were a lot of holds called all weekend. I don’t know if it was obvious, so maybe that was a theme. And he had the false start. But I think for the most part, he did a really nice job out there. Yeah, him being able to do that (switch positions) certainly creates more value for him.”