Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie may have added a new position to his repertoire.
The veteran Giants cornerback showed up in Monday night’s game against the Browns as a free safety, playing that spot for two series bridging the first and second quarters.
“He played really good,” Landon Collins said of DRC’s debut at the position. “I was kind of nervous on the open-field tackle, but he showed what he can do. I was happy.”
That tackle was against running back Matthew Dayes, who came through the defense on a 10-yard run. Rodgers-Cromartie closed on him and brought him down cleanly at midfield.
It seems unlikely the Giants will make this a permanent move. Rodgers-Cromartie did demonstrate a willingness — and an aptitude — for learning new roles in the defense last year when he moved from outside cornerback to the slot in sub packages. He earned second-team All-Pro at that spot in 2016.
The Giants do have some young players who are expected to play alongside Collins. Darian Thompson, coming back from foot surgery, is penciled in as the starter. Andrew Adams, who started most of the games last year, is behind Thompson. The Giants also have Nat Berhe.
But if DRC actually can play that position, it certainly would increase his value for the Giants. And it might even prolong his career. At 31, he’s still among the fastest players on the roster, but he’s bound to lose a step in the coming years. Moving from cornerback to safety has allowed many defensive backs to extend their time in the league.
At 6-2, 203 pounds and with his speed and hands, he might even be good at it.
“You never know,” Collins said. “He knows the whole defense like the back of his hand. I think it’s simple to him. So he could do it. If he keeps making open-field tackles like that, why not put him back there?”
One obvious reason is the Giants need him at cornerback right now. Eli Apple did not play on Monday, though his ankle injury is not expected to keep him sidelined much longer. The Giants lost Michael Hunter Jr. to a concussion on Monday. That leaves them a little thin at corner.
Still, there are ways for Rodgers-Cromartie to work at his new spot. Last week in practice, during an “opportunity” period for rookies and other young players, Rodgers-Cromartie quietly ditched his veteran cohorts and took a few reps at safety. Then, in Monday’s game, he was playing the spot for real (or as real as a preseason game allows).
“We just sprung it,” said Collins, who had never worked alongside Rodgers-Cromartie in such a capacity. “He said he wanted to play a little safety so we gave him a chance and he did his thing.”