Anyone who saw Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie play in the slot during his tenure with the Eagles – and saw him struggle at the position – would have trepidation about him possibly filling that role for the Giants this season. Rodgers-Cromartie is a tall, speedy cornerback who ideally is suited to play on the outside, which is where he said he is most comfortable and where he has played most of his career.
But if he is asked to slide to the inside this season – and it appears he may be – DRC said it will be very different from his experience with the role in Philadelphia.
“In Philly, it was just thrown out there,” he said on Saturday. “Whole time in camp playing outside, and then in season comes, you’re just thrown in nickel. So it’s just learning. At least here, doing the OTAs, I understood where I was going to be at for some parts, and got on it early.”
That’s the biggest difference between the two situations, he said.
Rodgers-Cromartie understands a lot. He knows that he will be a key piece to the Giants’ secondary this season, but he also knows that he may not be in the team’s future plans. His contract and his age and his history with injuries all put him on the list of potential departures after this season (he has two years remaining on his deal after this season with base salaries over $6 million in 2017 and 2018). The Giants invested heavily in young corners this offseason, adding Janoris Jenkins in free agency and drafting Eli Apple in the first round.
Where does that leave Rodgers-Cromartie now?
“To be honest, just go out there and contribute where I can,” the 30-year-old said. “Being the old guy, I’ve got to set into that role of just spitting knowledge to the guys that are younger than me, who are just going to be out there just playing. Just trying to help where I fit in.”
Jenkins told Newsday on Friday that the camaraderie between the three top corners is strong.
“There’s no threat,” he said. “We’re all family, man. In the NFL, on defense, everybody is a starter no matter if you are a backup or a first-round pick or a high-paid free agent. Everyone is a starter because in the league you never know what can happen.”
And Rodgers-Cromartie is one of the leaders for the group.
“DRC’s been here the longest, so he knows the scheme and the system,” Jenkins said. “Basically we try to pick his brain, see the ins and outs of the defense, and learn from each other.”
The Giants will try several pieces in the slot this summer. Apple will likely get a few chances in there. Trevin Wade as well. And there are others, too.
But if the Giants go into the season with Jenkins, Apple and Rodgers-Cromartie all healthy and available, it’ll be hard to take one of them off the field and one will likely be in the slot.
“I want to be on that field at the end of the day,” DRC said. “So if I’ve got to go out there and play D-end, then I’m going to D-end. It really doesn’t matter. You want to be outside, you want to be where you’re comfortable at, but at the end of the day, you just want to be on the field.”
It may not have been a good one, but Rodgers-Cromartie has the most experience among that group at the position.
“Slot work, it takes a lot of just understanding the game and the defense and knowing where everybody fits,” he said. “It’s challenging, but I’m definitely up for a challenge, so it is what it is.”