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Giants 90-Man Roster: CB Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie

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How much longer can DRC play at an elite level?

NFL: International Series-New York Giants at Los Angeles Rams
Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie returns an interception vs. the Los Angeles Rams last season.
Steve Flynn-USA TODAY Sports

Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie was one of the most instrumental players for the New York Giants last season, and one of the team’s best stories. Let’s focus on Rodgers-Cromartie today as we continue our player-by-player profiles of the Giants’ 90-man roster.

2016 Season In Review

When the Giants drafted Eli Apple with the 10th overall pick they were left with a dilemma. If they wanted to get the talented rookie cornerback on the field they were going to have to ask someone who wasn’t comfortable, wasn’t experienced doing it — or both — to play a heavy number of snaps in the slot.

They chose not to ask Apple, leaving him to develop on the outside where they hope he will grow into one of the league’s best man-to-man defenders. They weren’t about to ask Janoris Jenkins, not after handing him a five-year, $62.5 million (28.8 million guaranteed) contract to be their No. 1 corner. So, that left Rodgers-Cromartie.

DRC had been asked to play the slot once before in his first eight NFL seasons, and it did not go well. When the Philadelphia Eagles tried to build their super team in 2011, they had DRC, Nnamdi Asomugha and Asante Samuel at corner, and moved Rodgers-Cromartie inside. He wasn’t comfortable and didn’t play well. His two-year tenure in Philly really wasn’t good all the way around.

The Giants didn’t spring the move to the slot on Rodgers-Cromartie. They put him there during spring OTAs, let him get comfortable and the results were spectacular.

Rodgers-Cromartie played the best football of his three seasons with the Giants, and likely some of the best of his career. He tied his career-high with six interceptions, had 21 passes defensed and moved seamlessly from the slot to the outside and back depending on Apple’s health. He played in 15 games, but did miss the Giants’ playoff loss to the Green Bay Packers with leg issues.

“That (the slot) is a whole different area. That is hard, regardless. You have a two-way go on a man and that is always tough,” Rodgers-Cromartie said this spring. “The main thing is that I am comfortable in there. I have been there a while, so I am comfortable there, so it is better that way.”

2017 Season Outlook

Rodgers-Cromartie will likely have the same role during the upcoming season, primary slot corner and occasional fill in on the outside. Can he once again play at an elite level?

DRC is now a 31-year-old player who relies on his legs, a player who had 4.29 40-yard dash speed coming out of college and who is still proud of his speed and his ability to use that burst to recover. How much longer will he have that? During spring workouts, DRC declared that first-round pick Evan Engram (4.42 in the 40) still can’t run with him.

“He is fast, but he is not that fast,” said Rodgers-Cromartie.

In the fourth year of his five-year, $35 million contract, DRC has gotten all of the $13.98 million he was guaranteed. The Giants will have to decide after the 2017 season whether to commit $8.5 million in cap space to him or cut him and save $6.5 million. If he has another season like he did in 2016, there won’t be much of a choice.