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Can T.J. Brunson stand out in Giants’ linebacker crowd?

Seventh-round pick faces lots of competition to make 53-man roster

NCAA Football: SEC Media Day
T.J. Brunson
Vasha Hunt-USA TODAY Sports

As we talked about the other day in our look at sixth-round pick Cam Brown, the New York Giants loaded up on linebackers in the final two rounds of the 2020 NFL Draft. Can T.J. Brunson, selected 238th out of South Carolina, find roster space at what is suddenly a crowded, highly competitive position?

Let’s take a closer look.

The basics

Height: 6-foot-1
Weight: 230
Age: 22
Position: Linebacker
Experience: Rookie
Contract: Unsigned

How he got here

Brunson made 283 tackles (164 solo, 21 for loss) in 43 games for the South Carolina Gamecocks. He was their defensive leader and signal-caller, showcasing the football intelligence that seemed to be a trademark of many of the Giants’ draft selections.

2020 outlook

When he was selected, our Nick Falato wrote that Brunson was likely a two-down player who“isn’t known for his coverage and doesn’t have sideline to sideline range, but he brings the hammer as a run defender near the line of scrimmage.”

The Giants might disagree.

“He’s a guy you see making tackles sideline-to-sideline. He’s also a guy in South Carolina’s scheme and (Will) Muschamp’s scheme down there isn’t the simplest. Guys have been challenged mentally being down there. They’ve been coached hard,” Judge said. “He’s a guy that was out there making a lot of calls so you can see the communication element with him on the field as well as the productivity on the field.”

“He’s fast, he’s really athletic, he’s got good instincts,” Gettleman said. “We feel like he will be a really good fit and also has a lot of special teams value.”

So, too, does South Carolina coach Will Muschamp. He told me this:

“Extremely intelligent player, made all the calls for us. Very physical player at the point of attack, plays well at the point of attack and I think he’ll be a good addition to the organization,” Muschamp said.

“I think he’s an inside backer. He can play both at the MIKE and the WILL … an instinctive player … runs well in space. I think he’s going to be a valuable player on special teams.”

Muschamp also said this:

“From a speed standpoint he’s going to be a guy that can cover and play in space. He can give you a little pass rush ability when he needs to. He’s a guy that can play the two-back run game, he can play the one-back run game and he can play in space,” Muschamp said. “I think that’s where a lot of people question, that’s where linebackers get taken off the board, when they can’t play on third down, they can’t cover. T.J.’s shown the ability to cover some really good backs in our league.”

Rookies Brunson, Brown, Carter Coughlin, and Tae Crowder will all be competing for roster spots. Special teams, and health, will have a lot to do with who make sit and who doesn’t.

Those spots, right now, are virtually impossible to handicap.