Everyone wanted to talk to Jay Bromley about the play he made.
On third-and-1 on the second series of Friday’s preseason game, the Steelers tried to run the ball behind starting guard Ramon Foster to pick up a first down. Bromley was having none of it. He sliced inside of the nine-year veteran and made the tackle for a 1-yard loss.
But as reporters surrounded Bromley after the game, that wasn’t the snap he was thinking about. Rather, the defensive tackle was more focused on another play that went largely unnoticed. He was supposed to run a stunt but did not. There was some miscommunication on the line of scrimmage. It went down as a mental error or, in Giants parlance, an “M.E.”
“I just want to go out there and show what I can do and learn from the mistakes that I made tonight,” Bromley said after the 20-12 loss. “I want to correct that and make that not happen again. I think I can be a lot better than I was tonight for my team.”
That’s what has been driving Bromley all offseason. He was an almost forgotten piece of the defensive front for a while. When Johnathan Hankins signed with the Colts, it created an opening up front. Robert Thomas was the first to fill it in the early days of training camp, before he missed time with an injury. Rookie second-round pick Dalvin Tomlinson has shown promise and is the presumed future resident of that spot.
Right now, though, Bromley is the Giants’ starting defensive tackle and he is making it difficult for the team to consider replacing him.
“It’s a great opportunity ahead of me,” he said, acknowledging the competition at the position. “I think those guys are all formidable opponents and trying to get the job. But I believe that I have what it takes to be the starting defensive tackle for this team, and that’s my goal.”
On Saturday Ben McAdoo said that Bromley and Tomlinson have “a leg up” on the rest of the group to win that title. Thomas is expected to return to working with the team on Sunday.
“I think Jay is improving,” McAdoo said. “He’s playing with a better base, that helps him. He’s playing with some hostility out there. He’s playing aggressive, playing physical football.”
This is Bromley’s fourth year with the Giants, the last on his rookie contract, so it is inherently important. For Bromley, a third-round pick who has never quite matched the potential the Giants thought he had when they selected him — he has just four career starts, all in 2015 when Hankins was injured, and just one career sack — it’s more than just about proving himself for a new deal. It’s about proving himself, period.
“I think I’m as good as I’ve been since I’ve been in the league and I want to continue to build on that,” Bromley said. “I’m still not where I need to be.”
He’s getting closer. Bromley has been flashing in the past week at training camp, disrupting running lanes and pressuring the pocket. On Friday, he continued that ascent against the Steelers.
“When you work day in and day out on something and the fruits of your labor come to light, that’s a blessing,” he said.
It was on that third-and-1 play Friday night.
“It was a great opportunity to make a play,” Bromley said when coerced into talking about it. “I thank coach for calling the play and I was just able to go out and execute it. I just want to go out there and make the plays I know I can make. I know I can make those plays and I want to consistently make those plays.
“That’s the only goal that I have.”