Darnay Holmes stood before a crowd of curious football minds and warned that competing against anyone other than tomorrow’s edition was a “waste of energy”.
Holmes was addressing high school players who attended the Sports International Camp at Drew University last week, but he may have been offering advice to his fellow veteran defensive backs.
Or speaking in the mirror about his upcoming training-camp battle against Kordell Flott and other dark-horse candidates to become the starting slot cornerback.
Holmes later told The Post, “It’s a battle every year for me.” “It is always an opportunity to present myself as one of the 32 best Nickels [in the NFL], I’m never one to shy away from competition, so I’m excited. We are ready to make each other better and do the best for the team.
The 25-year-old Holmes made one of the biggest plays of last season – forcing an end zone incompletion to seal the Week 15 win against Washington – but Flot was drafted by the current regime to play in the slot.
Injuries to teammates forced him to the perimeter as a rookie and he performed better in the slot, but long-term plans remained unchanged as Flott and Holmes rotated with the starting secondary — ahead of third-team Zion Gilbert — during OTAs and minicamp.
Flott told The Post at the same camp, “It’s an open competition, but I’ll let it happen when I get on the field.” “I got a little taste of everything. The change helped me to be able to attack nickel, but don’t be surprised if I have to go there again.
Flott, 21, spent his first NFL offseason training across the country with fellow former LSU stars Derek Stingley Jr., Calvin Joseph and Patrick Queen.
He’s clearly grown up – which could help him stay on the field when defenses demand a big slot to stop runs – to attack a specific skill.
Flott said of his offseason focus, “Mostly my tackling – and that comes with just getting into the physical frame and getting a little bit extra.” “With my quickness and my height, there aren’t many 6-foot-2 guys who move like a slick guy, so I’m proud of that and I’m ready to play it up.”
Holmes’ first step in adding to his 11 career starts is to show desired improvement from last season, which is his third.
It starts with less reliance on his hands when he was flagged for six holding and two pass interference penalties — and with that early contact on that season-turning pass break-up last season.
“They evaluate me based on the tape I put out there, and I think I did things during the offseason to get better – and I’m not done yet,” Holmes said. “I feel like the things that have hindered my game are actually going to be a tool that allows me to be my best self.
“I want to get away with impunity – not as easy as that. People don’t understand that nickel is a deep position and you can’t really focus on what the critics are saying. There are things my coach wanted me to work on, there are things I knew I needed to work on, and once I heard from him that it was something I was already working on, I found peace with the situation.
The veterans increased their numbers. A 28-ranked running defense with front-seven signings of A’Shaun Robinson, Rakim Nunez-Roaches and Bobby Okereke, but at what cost?
Even if first-round rookie Deonte Banks replaces free-agent cornerback Fabian Morrow, a safety job vacated by Julian Love is up for grabs as well.
Holmes credited defensive backs coach Jerome Henderson and veteran Adori Jackson as tone-setters, saying, “I’m excited about what the future holds for all of us.” “We have a room that is not selfish and wants to be the best. When you have that, there is no limit.”
Holmes stresses to campers the importance of considering consequences in making decisions, and Flott urges his audience to “believe in themselves” while discovering their strengths and weaknesses on the job.
It seems that words of wisdom are secondary for young veterans to borrow from.