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Jake Carlock’s splash play might help him make the jump from D-II to the NFL

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Carlock has the attention of coaches and the media. Now he needs to follow up

New York Jets v New York Giants Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images

Preseason football holds an interesting place in the sports consciousness. It is more heralded than preseason baseball, and it is looked forwards to as the biggest sign that the NFL regular season is just around the corner.

But on the other hand, it tends to be ignored after the initial rush and the fact that it is a watered down and the games are (sometimes) not very fun to watch.

Personally, the best part of the preseason isn’t that football is back or that we get to watch the New York Giants again after offseasons that always seem interminable. No, the best part of the preseason is seeing which young or under the radar players are going to be able to step up and force their way into the spotlight and onto the roster. A decade ago Victor Cruz took advantage of the preseason to capture the national imagination (and give us all a Hard Knocks soundbite for the ages).

This year Jake Carlock, an undrafted rookie out of LIU-Post, might just be the guy to step up and become a fan favorite

Going from Division II to the NFL

Not many knew who Jake Carlock was when the Giants signed him after the 2019 NFL Draft, but the prospect of an athletic 6-foot, 3 inch, 225 pound safety was intriguing. He seemed custom built for the moneybacker ($backer) position in James Bettcher’s defense. But the fact remains that the NFL is a big step — a couple big steps — up from LIU-Post or SUNY Stonybrook.

“I knew it was going to be tough coming from D2,” Carlock said Sunday, “coming from a small school but they gave me a shot and them giving me a shot I’m so thankful for and I knew I was going to give 100 percent every single day. Just to prove to them and give them a reason for me being here, so every day I think the same and I got a great group of guys and coaches around me and they help me so much. It’s easy coming out and working for them.”

Players at the back end of the roster always have their work cut out for them when it comes to getting coaches’ attention and seizing a roster spot. They can make splash plays or they can out-work everyone around them, but one way or another they need to set themselves apart and give the coaches a reason to give them more opportunities.

“I think it’s both,” Carlock said. “I think the plays definitely help for sure, but at the same time some of the coaches were coming up to me and telling me how they’ve seen me in film running around and hustling other guys and I think that’s where it really comes into play. You just got to run around and you’ll get noticed if you’re going all out, so thankfully I’m starting to get some notice but I’m nowhere near where I want to be and I’m not going to settle now.”

The interception

The highlight of the night for Carlock, and one of the big highlights for the Giants, was his interception return for a touchdown. Lined up as a defensive end, the former defensive back couldn’t quite get around the Jets’ right tackle to make the sack. So instead he did what front seven defenders are supposed to do when they can’t get to the quarterback: Get their hands up and clog passing lanes.

Not only did Carlock come up with a pass defensed, but some terrific concentration, quick reflexes, and fleet feet let him secure the interception and return it for the touchdown.

And create a memory he would never forget.

“It was cool,” he said, when asked what it was like to have Coach Shurmur recognize him in the locker room after the game. “it’s nice to see guys genuinely happy for you, I mean these guys are awesome and something like that, is something I’ll remember for the rest of my life for sure.”

But just because he came up with a big play in a preseason game doesn’t mean that Carlock is taking a roster spot for granted. He knows he has work to do and says that he is focusing on the things he still has to improve.

“I mean even on the play with the pick, I couldn’t really get around the tackle and it’s not a good job by me. I need to get around him to make the sack but thankfully I made that play,” Carlock said. “Then there were other plays where I didn’t get off the ball quick enough and I could’ve hustled on that other play earlier in the game. So I had a good play but there were many things I could correct and I’m going to.”