The Mr. Irrelevant selection was afforded to the New York Giants in 2020. With that selection, Big Blue drafted a linebacker out of Georgia named Tae Crowder, who they hope is anything but irrelevant.
Crowder saw significant snaps in 2018, as a 6-foot-3, 235-pound, starting inside linebacker. In that season, he compile 53 tackles, 6 for a loss, 1.5 sacks, 2 interceptions and 1 pass defensed. In 2019, he recorded 62 tackles, 4 for a loss and 4 passes defensed, with no sacks or interceptions. Crowder isn’t a sideline-to-sideline type of linebacker, and his coverage isn’t great as he travels deeper, but he’s a physical player within the box. He could realistically earn a role on special teams, which presumably won’t be given to just backups. I expect head coach Joe Judge and special teams coordinator Thomas McGaughey to run their special teams’ unit similar to New England, where there will be roster spots dedicated strictly to players who thrive on special teams (Matthew Slater, Nate Ebner, Brandon Bolden, etc.). Eager to prove himself, Crowder was the first rookie to sign his rookie contract, and he’ll look to earn a linebacker roster spot over/alongside fellow seventh-round pick out of South Carolina T.J. Brunson and UDFA out of North Carolina Dominique Ross.
Let’s take a look at five plays by Crowder (No. 30) that should excite you, and a few things to worry about.
(Outside of the first video, don’t mind the arrows on the screen. They’re not Crowder.)
Play 1: Notre Dame @ Georgia 2019
Second quarter, 15:00, First-and-10
The Fighting Irish motion their H-Back to the wide side of the field, where there are already two receivers. Crowder, the boundary side linebacker, does an excellent job reading his keys and seeing the screen develop. Notre Dame’s No. 68 is caught napping and Crowder takes advantage of the oblivious nature of the lineman by undercutting the two lead blockers and crossing his face. Crowder isn’t an excellent athlete, but he has a good quick trigger downhill, with solid immediate acceleration, which is why he has success with his run fits in the box, when he’s unblocked. Crowder displays awareness, timing, and uses a good angle to take the outside away from the pass catcher, while forcing him to the ground.
Play 2: Georgia @ LSU 2018
First quarter, 2:02, Second-and-6
Crowder is lined up to the field side in the play above, with a motioning Jontre Kirkland (13) coming from the backside on a jet-sweep. Burrow hands the ball to Kirkland, while Thad Moss (18) and Troy Carter (44) lead block around the field side edge. Crowder takes a good pursuit angle while staying disciplined with his adjustment, due to Kirkland being forced inside. Crowder’s aiming points could have been a bit better, but we can see the core strength and lower body drive of Crowder as he wraps Kirkland up and drives him backwards. It’s consistent with Crowder’s tape — he loves to drive through opponents and finish with physicality when squared up.
Play 3: Tennessee @ Georgia 2018
Second quarter, 10:15, Second-and-10
The Vols come out in a five-wide set, 3x2, with the inside receiver being Crowder’s responsibility. Crowder plays the first-down marker and is patient on the out breaking route. Once the receiver breaks outside, Crowder shoots hard towards the extending arms of the receiver and swats the ball away to force an incompletion. Crowder isn’t a player who is going to excel in many man coverage looks, and I wouldn’t want him being a curl/flat defender, but he can operate well in short areas like this. I liked seeing him beat the ball to the catch point and force the pass defensed, even if it wasn’t a lot of ground to cover.
Play 4: Georgia @ LSU 2018
Fourth quarter, 3:46, First-and-10
LSU is up big toward the end of this game, but Crowder doesn’t give up. From just inside the far hash, as the field (play side) linebacker with a “Joker” on the boundary side, Crowder is able to track down Clyde Edwards-Helaire (22) and throw him out of bounds with authority. The only running back selected in the first round of the 2020 NFL Draft is not an easy player to bring down, but Crowder slings him to the deck with ease. Again, Crowder attacks the back half of the ball carrier, which isn’t ideal, but he’s able to get him down to the ground with power. Crowder also shows really good acceleration here as he keeps his shoulders square while moving laterally and eyeing the running back’s path. Once he sees Edwards-Helaire spill outside, he aggressively hits a second gear and tracks him down well. It’s an impressive, encouraging, rep from Crowder, who doesn’t always show this type of tracking ability.
Play 5: Alabama vs Georgia 2018
Fourth quarter, 2:27, Second-and-9
This play is just a broken play/good coverage from the Bulldogs, where QB Jalen Hurts tried to scramble for some yardage, but was stopped by Crowder at the line of scrimmage. We can see Crowder break his coverage once he realizes Hurts’ intentions. Crowder’s splitting the difference between the numbers and the hash. From then on, he shows two things I love: 1). Straight line acceleration; 2). A physical chop to try and force a turnover.
Things he can work on
Play 1: Alabama vs Georgia 2018
These three plays highlight a struggle with strength at the point of attack. In the first two clips, we see both Jedrick Wills (74) and Alex Leatherwood (70) climb to the second level, locate Crowder, and then give a powerful shove which knocks Crowder off balance and back, surrendering ground for the rushing attack. I like some of the physicality that Crowder shows in the box when he’s quick to commit and he can meet running backs in the hole, but he too often gets pushed back when located at the second level. To Crowder’s credit, against Leatherwood, he regains his composure and ensures that Damien Harris (34) does not get into the end zone. The second clip against Leatherwood isn’t encouraging at all. Crowder is easily taken out by Leatherwood; a hard player to get around, yes, but the slight hesitation just led to a huge hole with no second level defenders to make a play on the ball carrier. Once he gets off of Leatherwood’s block, he can’t get to Josh Jacobs (8) who easily out paces him down the field.
Play 2: Notre Dame @ Georgia
First quarter, 13:29, Second-and-5
Crowder may have missed his assignment in man coverage here on this play action. Georgia is bringing five on the pressure package, with the boundary corner going on the blitz, leaving Chase Claypool (83) open as the hot receiver. Georgia’s in a two-deep look, but the boundary safety is tasked to cover Claypool, despite being 13 yards off the line of scrimmage. Outside of that, it seems to be a single high look, with the field safety dropping to the middle of the field, and the field linebacker seems to be eyeing the running back’s path. That leaves Crowder as the likely cover man for Cole Kmet (83). There obviously was some sort of confusion, since Kmet split the linebackers on his route, but neither linebacker follows him. Crowder bites hard on the play fake, leaving Kmet wide open. It’s plausible that Crowder expected to cover the running back, even after the play action, which would have left Kmet to be guarded by the other linebacker. The miscommunication from a senior isn’t great and it resulted in a big play for Notre Dame.
Crowder is a bigger linebacker, who lacks excellent athletic ability, but does possess solid straight line acceleration and speed. He’s physical at the tackle point, but could clean up some of his aiming points. Ideally, he shouldn’t be used in intermediate to deep type of coverages, but could have some success in hook zone towards the middle of the field. He may not have the change of direction or range to be a curl/flat defender. Crowder has to get stronger taking on blocks from tackles at the second level, and he also could become more instinctual with his keys. Brunson is a bit better at keying and diagnosing plays, but Crowder’s movement skills in open space may be a bit better than the South Carolina product. There’s room for both on the team, but competition should bring the best out of all these young linebackers. Let’s hope they can develop into key contributors.