The Giants paid Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie like one of best cornerbacks in the NFL. Now Antrel Rolle wants to see him play like it.
The Giants' veteran safety, who played alongside Rodgers-Cromartie when the two were with the Cardinals, issued a challenge to the cornerback to live up to his potential - something that hasn't always happened during Rodgers-Cromartie's meandering NFL career.
"I still don't feel like [Rodgers-Cromartie] has shown what he can truly be in this league, which is one of the best corners in the NFL," said Rolle, who was in Manhattan Friday morning along with teammates Henry Hynoski and Spencer Paysinger to promote the Promax protein bar nutrition system.
Rolle was teammates with Rodgers-Cromartie in Arizona in 2008-09 before Rolle joined the Giants as a free agent in 2010. He saw plenty that he liked about Rodgers-Cromartie, but also saw what was lacking - which may be a reason the cornerback is playing for his fourth NFL team at age 28.
"I've played the corner position. I've been around several corners, and I know the talents and athleticism he brings to the game." Rolle said. "He's freakish. You put that together, along with the knowledge of the game, understanding where your team is going to be, when to gamble here and there, when not to. I think he has the best safeties around, with Stevie Brown, myself, Will Hill and Quintin Demps. Now he needs to show how good he can be."
Rolle hopes Rodgers-Cromartie quickly gets up to speed with the defense, partly because Rolle doesn't know how much longer he'll be in a Giants' uniform. He's entering the final year of his contract, and knows the team may go in a different direction in 2015.
"I do think about it," Rolle said. "This is a business and this is the last year of my contract. Whether or not I come back or not is really not up to me. The only thing I can do is go out there and play the best possible ball I can possibly play and try to continue to be the same guy I've always been, for myself, for my teammates, for the organization. We'll see how the season unfolds. I just want to play ball. Play reckless, make plays when the opportunity presents itself."
Rolle hopes his play will be good enough for the Giants to keep him beyond this season.
"Absolutely, I want to finish my career with the Giants," he said. "I wouldn't want to be anywhere else. I've been with other organizations, and there is a difference. I think it will definitely be good to end my career here."
Rolle, Hynoski and Paysinger all agree the Giants' flurry of free-agent moves, coupled with their drafting of LSU wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. in the first round Thursday night, put them in excellent position to rebound from last year's 7-9 season.
"Without a doubt, the sky's the limit for this group," Rolle said. "We have a lot of great playmakers on paper. That means nothing unless we put it all together on the field. So far, so good. It all starts with the chemistry on the team. For the guys coming in from different organizations, they've pretty much accepted the challenges we've put on them, which is to come in and contribute right away. Those guys are all eager, we've embraced them and so far the chemistry has been great."
Hynoski, who is healthy after recovering from a shoulder injury last season, believes Beckham will be a major factor in the offense.
"I think we got a great pick in Beckham," Hynoski said. "I think he's going to be a tremendous asset, be very explosive in our offense. We have a high-powered passing attack, so if you key on him, you're going to open up the running lanes, too."
All three players agreed the Giants had a successful off-season in filling several needs through free agency, adding players such as running back Rashad Jennings, linebacker Jameel McClain, defensive end Robert Ayers and wide receiver Mario Manningham, who came back to the Giants after playing for San Francisco. They believe it's good enough to put them back in contention in the NFC East.
"Since my first year with the Giants, we've made the most explosive moves in free agency that I've been able to witness," Rolle said. "Right now, we're trying to change the atmosphere in the locker room a little bit, have guys who are a little different here, guys who want to go out there and play and compete, no matter how the game is going. I think upstairs [in the front office], they're doing an excellent job with that, with the guys that have been here, teaching them the Giants' way, maintain that attitude, that swagger that we need to be a dominant unit. So far, so good. I think the chemistry is awesome. This is the first time I've seen it this upbeat so early. I'm extremely excited about this year."