If you were a betting man it would be pretty safe to wager that cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie won't be a member of the New York Giants in 2017. The signs are unmistakable. The Giants drafted cornerback Eli Apple in the first round. They signed Janoris Jenkins to a five-year, $62.5 million contract with $28.8M guaranteed. The guaranteed portion of DRC's five-year, $35 milion deal has been paid. Rodgers-Cromartie will be 31 in 2017, and the Giants could save $4.5 million against the salary cap by cutting him.
All of that, though, is in the future. For now, though, Rodgers-Cromartie remains a Giant and they will count on him to once again play at a high level. Let's take a closer look at DRC as we continue or player-by-player profiles of the 90-man roster the Giants will bring to training camp.
2015 Season in Review
Rodgers-Cromartie played pretty well for the Giants in 2015, as he had the year before.The eight-year veteran had a career-high 58 tackles, showing some uncharacteristic open-field aggression. He had three interceptions and a pair of forced fumbles, the first fumbles he had forced since 2009. Rodgers-Cromartie also had 13 passes defensed.
As he had in 2014, DRC seemed to go off the field more than the Giants might have liked with minor injuries. Still. he played 888 defensive snaps (76.8 percent). Only Landon Collins (1,092) played more.
Rodgers-Cromartie showed that, when healthy enough, he still had the speed and athleticism that has made him special as a man-cover corner.
2016 Season Outlook
When the Giants made Apple the 10th overall selection in the 2016 NFL Draft the assumption was that Apple would spend his rookie season in the slot and eventually take over for Rodgers-Cromartie on the outside in 2017. That, however, isn't necessarily what we saw in spring practices. Rodgers-Cromartie spent more time in the slot than Apple, and we never saw Jenkins there during practices open to the media.
"Let's find out which guy plays best in there and then go from there because we know they can all pretty much play outside and have played outside," defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo said during minicamp. "Some of that is being done for emergency situations, so they are getting reps right now, but no, they have been great, all of those guys. I think they like the challenge of learning something new and playing a different position, so I think it has been new and refreshing to them."
When the Denver Broncos signed Rodgers-Cromartie away from the Eagles for the 2013 season, our friends at SB Nation's Mile High Report studied their new player and termed putting him in the the slot a "misuse of his talent." MHR wrote:
" ... perhaps the biggest misuse of his talent was to put him inside against a slot receiver. Doesn't fit his game. Yes DRC is a good man corner, yes he excels when he can get his hands on the receiver at the line of scrimmage. For whatever reason though, when I saw him matched up on the inside, he failed to do so. The slot receiver would get inside leverage, and I don't care how fast you are, when the slot receiver gets that position to the inside that's all she wrote."
Thing is, to get Rodgers-Cromartie, Apple and Jenkins all on the field together the Giants may not have much choice. Truthfully, they don't show much inclination to put Jenkins, their new $62.5 million man, inside. Apple has never played the slot and said during the spring that it is "just different from the outside."
"It's not going to be an easy adjustment, for sure," Apple said. "I'm going to have to be in my playbook every day, talking to my coach and trying to pick the brain from other guys and get more experience out there."
You wonder if, a bit like their insistence on keeping 2015 first-round pick Ereck Flowers at left tackle, the Giants will ultimately decide it is in Apple's best interest to let him learn primarily on the outside, where his future almost certainly is.
If that turns out to be the case we will end up finding out if an older, more experienced Rodgers-Cromartie handles the slot better than the last time he played significant snaps there.