When the New York Giants came to terms with Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie on a five-year contract worth $39 million, few on the team were as happy as fellow corner Prince Amukamara.
The way the 24-year-old saw it; Rodgers-Cromartie represented the perfect compliment to himself. Their play styles were polar opposites, enabling the Giants to increase what would be able to be done on defense.
"Pick your poison," Amukamara said.
But when Amukamara, who was considered the team’s No. 1 corner last season, found out it would be DRC shadowing opponents’ top targets, it had to have been a bit hard to swallow, right?
"I’m not insulted at all," Amukamara said. "Of course it’s a challenge, but Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie isn’t my standard. He isn’t my standard that I have to try to get to.
"I’m my standard. I’m trying to always be the best corner I can be."
Towards the end of last season, Amukamara finally began to have his play reach his own personal standards. After struggling with injuries, dropped interceptions and other issues, Amukamara saw his play match the performance expected of a former first-round pick.
Facing two of the league’s best in the final two games of the regular season, Amukamara went one-on-one.
Against the Washington Redskins and Detroit Lions, Amukamara followed Pierre Garćon and Calvin Johnson everywhere on the field. Johnson was held to three receptions for 43 yards while Garćon managed six receptions for 56.
"I think I grew a lot as a player and a person," Amukamara said. "When you get that role to follow the best receiver around the field, you naturally feel important and you feel respected."
But now that, barring an injury, that role is reserved for Rodgers-Cromartie, does it take away from the importance Amukamara felt?
"It doesn’t really affect me," Amukamara said. "It really doesn’t affect my goals of how I come into the season. I’m always competing and I’m always just trying to be the number one corner on this team and in the league. It really doesn’t affect how I prepare."
If Amukamara can match the play he displayed at the end of the season, and Rodgers-Cromartie is the DRC of 2013 and not the one that patrolled Philadelphia’s "Dream Team" from 2011-2012, New York may have the best 1-2 corner combination in the league.
The two are ball hawks, are over 6-1, can be physical and have speed. Couple that with last year’s breakout Trumaine McBride and fellow free-agent signing Walter Thurmond III, and New York’s secondary is vastly improved.
The Giants have yet to pick up the fifth-year option on Amukamara’s rookie deal. 13 players selected in the 2011 first round have already had their options picked up; teams have until May 3 to make a decision.
Players that do not have their options picked up will be free agents at the end of this year.
"Every year I come in thinking it’s a contract year," Amukamara said. "My training is going to be the same, if anything I’ll just step it up a little bit more.