Retaining Jerome Henderson has Giants optimistic about secondary

James Bradberry was a Pro Bowl cornerback and safety Logan Ryan was a Super Bowl-winning team captain, but neither was the best in the NFL at his job.

The Giants kept the “best.”

Phrased that most-optimistic way, maybe the hits suffered by the Giants secondary this offseason are not insurmountable. Not if Jerome Henderson can accelerate the development of the young crop he was handed.

“I think we’ve got the best secondary coach in the league,” defensive coordinator Wink Martindale said. “I’m excited for that room.”

When the Giants hired Brian Daboll, a message quickly spread through the coaching community: Defensive backs coaches need not apply.

Daboll spent his third night as head coach reconnecting with Henderson over dinner, after their four seasons together as assistants under Eric Mangini with the Jets and Browns (2007-10). Henderson, who played safety in the NFL for eight seasons, wound up as one of just two lead assistants (special teams coordinator Thomas McGaughey is the other) retained from former head coach Joe Judge’s staff.

Giants defensive backs coach Jerome Henderson
Noah K. Murray

“What makes Rome a great secondary coach is not only that he played the game but the way he always tells us about it,” cornerback Adoree Jackson told The Post. “He says, ‘The only thing I’m envious of is that you guys have a chance to make the plays I didn’t make.” For him, it’s not about being selfish, but wanting us to be at the best of our ability.”

Any path to improvement for the Giants’ underwhelming roster is heavily tied to coaching.

Is Daboll a more aggressive decision-maker than Judge? Can Martindale’s blitz-heavy scheme get more stops than Patrick Graham’s play-it-safe zones? Can offensive coordinator Mike Kafka bring the play-calling into this decade? Can Henderson get the most out of Xavier McKinney, Darnay Holmes, Aaron Robinson and Cor’Dale Flott — all of whom were drafted under his watch?

“We’re growing and learning the system just like they are,” Henderson said, pairing himself with holdover assistant defensive backs coach Mike Trier. “I’ve asked them to stay patient with me, and I’m going to stay patient with them. The thing I like is they are competing really hard. You can see the direction of the defense: It’s going to get after people, and I think the guys are enjoying that aspect of it.”

Henderson returned to the same job in name only. The responsibilities are much different. Veterans Bradberry (96.4 percent) and Ryan (90.8) both played the majority of the defensive snaps over the last two seasons and were given input into matchups.

Giants defensive backs coach Jerome Henderson
Noah K. Murray

Now, there is more of a need to stress fundamentals.

“In this game, a lot of coaches get switched around, but keeping our same coach is great because we already had that chemistry with each other, and a lot of us had that bond with him already,” McKinney said. “It’s a lot easier to be able to just listen to him and be able to soak in the information that he gives us.”

Martindale showed last season with the Ravens that he won’t stop blitzing just because of a weakened secondary. Get better quickly — or get lost.

“The other side of [blitzing] is the ball has to come out quickly now,” Henderson said. “Hopefully, we don’t have to cover quite as long. If we can be disruptive early, hopefully we can help the defense play at a high level.”

Henderson said he was “waiting to see what happened, just like everybody else on pins and needles,” after the Giants fired Judge. If Daboll had polled the locker room, he would’ve found backing for Henderson.

“He stays on us no matter what,” said Jackson, who is entering his sixth season. “Even if you did something good, he’s going to correct you on what you could’ve done better. He shows love like you’re his own son — he’s going to be tough on you because he wants the best for you, like my dad did. I learned a lot from him in one year. I always say, ‘I wish I would’ve been taught then what I’m taught now.’ “


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