Giants trusting Deonte Banks to be a ‘true No. 1’ cornerback

Deonte Banks changed his jersey to No. 3 after a solid rookie season.

The Giants are trusting Banks to be worthy of No. 1 billing — their top cornerback — as an encore.

“We would like to see him grow and be that true No. 1 corner,” defensive backs coach Jerome Henderson said. “There are some receivers in this league that, against anybody, you are going to want to give a corner help sometimes.

“You hope against those guys he plays a game where you are like, ‘OK, that’s an even matchup for the Giants.’ You hope he develops into that. He’s working his butt off to get there. I’m pushing him to get there.”

The deadline is fewer than 100 days away.

Giants cornerback Deonte Banks speaks to the media during camp at the Quest Diagnostics Center. Corey Sipkin for the NY POST

The Giants open the season Sept. 8 against the Vikings, who just made Justin Jefferson (four years, $140 million) the league’s highest-paid non-quarterback.

Jefferson’s career average of 98.3 receiving yards per game is far and away the most in NFL history, ahead of Calvin Johnson’s 86.1.

Not a soft introduction, but Banks isn’t shying away from bigger responsibilities.

Jefferson is followed by a murderer’s row of potential matchups against fellow 1,000-yard yard receivers Terry McLaurin, Amari Cooper, CeeDee Lamb, D.K. Metcalf, Ja’Marr Chase and A.J. Brown in the first seven games.

“I actually love it,” Banks said. “I take on the challenge, and I face it. I feel good about it. They believe in me.”

The Giants decided not to re-sign three-year starter Adoree Jackson and to spend money on other positions in free agency, which combined to form a vote of confidence in Banks.

The assessment inside the organization was that Banks surpassed Jackson — who remains a free agent — during last season, anyway.

“You see his physical gifts and you are like, ‘Wow,’ ” Henderson said. “But he has to make those physical gifts work for him every play. He has to grow in his awareness and his NFL 101 knowledge. That’s where he can really make a big jump.”

Deonte Banks (3) runs during practice at the Quest Diagnostics Center, Thursday, May 23, 2024. Corey Sipkin for the NY POST

At the same time, Banks is learning a new defensive scheme.

The 2023 first-round draft pick was a favorite of former coordinator Wink Martindale because of his ability to play press-man coverage.

Banks doesn’t expect that skill to be de-emphasized just because new play-caller Shane Bowen utilizes more zone principles.

“It’s still aggressive, but just not as aggressive,” Banks said. “I really still have the same responsibility. I’m still pressing, still up close on the guy.”

Banks allowed 53 catches for 644 yards and four touchdowns across 15 games last season, according to Pro Football Focus.

More promisingly, he ranked second in the NFL in fewest receptions over expected allowed (-6.7), according to Next Gen Stats, despite drawing tough midseason assignments like shadowing McLaurin, Lamb (during the second of two Giants-Cowboys games) and Garrett Wilson.

“I feel like I had an OK year,” Banks said. “I started a little slow, and towards the middle and end of the season I got better. I got my [field] awareness of what’s coming. I feel really comfortable, really confident.”

The 6-foot-2, 200-pound Banks spent the offseason in Florida training to add core body strength.

“The more he plays, the more comfortable he’s gotten,” head coach Brian Daboll said. “He’s playing some different things here with our new defense, but he’s done a really good job throughout OTAs.”

Deonte Banks (25) intercepts a pass intended for Washington Commanders wide receiver Jahan Dotson (1) during the second quarter at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J. Bill Kostroun/New York Post

If Banks struggles when the games start, it’s unclear how he could be cut some slack.

The Giants practiced in OTAs with converted slot cornerback Cor’Dale Flott as the starter on the other side, versatile special-teams-first Nick McCloud in the slot ahead of rookie Dru Phillips, and Darnay Holmes and Tre Hawkins — both of whom were benched last season — as the perimeter backups.

Someone will have to defend explosive rookie receiver Malik Nabers in practice — a challenge that could help Banks.

“Guys who become really productive players in the league, at some point in their career start letting their physical gifts help them, but they are also using their mind to help them as well,” Henderson said.

“They are playing a game that’s much more knowledgeable than the eye would guess. They are seeing splits, they are seeing formations, what does down-and-distance tell me, who is this receiver and how does that factor in? Those are the areas where I’m hoping he is growing.”

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