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Dominique Ross profile: Can UDFA coverage linebacker stick with Giants?

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Ross has an interesting skill set — is it enough to land him a job?

North Carolina v Duke
Domiique Ross defending a pass against Duke in 2018.
Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

In an age of sub-package defensive football, Dominique Ross was really a collegiate linebacker in name only during the 2019 season. He was really a pass coverage specialist for the North Carolina Tar Heels.

Can that singular skill earn him a job with the New York Giants? Let’s take a closer look at this undrafted free agent.

The basics

Height: 6-foot-4
Weight: 228
Age: N/A
Position: Linebacker
Experience: Rookie
Contract: Year 1 of three-year, $2.285 million undrafted free agent contract

How he got here

Ross used his intriguing blend of size and athleticism to become a combination outside linebacker/nickel cornerback in 2019. The best thing I can do here is offer you a couple of scouting reports.

Via Akil Guruparan of SB Nation’s North Carolina web site, Tar Heel Blog.

Pros:

  • Great size for a pass coverage linebacker, 6-foot-4 and 225 pounds makes him big enough to deal with tight ends and he carries it well enough to match running backs in the flat.
  • Very disciplined – makes sure to read his keys before rushing into action, always has a plan and sticks to it.
  • Sure and strong tackler – was able to stick Travis Etienne several times vs Clemson. Gets low to tackle. Has the occasional whiff, but isn’t chronic.
  • Strong click-and-close for a linebacker. Changes direction and pursues the ball quickly once he sees it come out of the QB’s hands.
  • Primary strength is in pass coverage, especially in off-man vs tight ends. Will take away big slot options. Used as a passing downs-only LB in UNC’s defense last year and did well – 4 PDs, 6 TFL all coming in the flat.
  • Decent blitzer – doesn’t get off blocks very well, but his discipline will make you pay for not sending help. 2.5 sacks and 4 pressures as a situational blitzer last year.

Cons:

  • Can spend too much time with his eyes in the backfield to actually change the play – doesn’t have phenomenal instincts, only trusts what he sees.
  • Might not have the speed required to stay with the better TEs and slot RBs in the NFL – lack of a pro day hurts him.
  • Mediocre in run support – doesn’t pick through trash well, usually ends up near the end of a play but without having made a big impact.
  • Gets overwhelmed by blocks, even vs. RBs and TEs, pretty regularly. Get two hands on him near the LOS and he’s probably out of the play. He will punish WRs who don’t block as well, though.
  • Not a good zone defender. Too many times where he’s dropped into a zone to cover air instead of having the field awareness to either rush the QB or take away a relevant zone.

Overview:

Profiles as a discount moneybacker – played exclusively on passing downs for UNC in 2019 and gained a lot of experience in coverage. Still has a ways to go, especially as a zone defender, but has the size and agility to be a backup/situational nickel linebacker in the NFL. Isn’t overly physical in the box and doesn’t have great instincts, which probably limit his ceiling beyond that, but that isn’t necessarily a bad thing for a UDFA. Thanks to Pro Days being cancelled due to the pandemic, we don’t know if he has the athletic profile to play in the NFL, but if his athleticism translates, there’s certainly a place for him to succeed and help a team out.

Via Emory Hunt’s Football Gameplan 2020 Draft Guide:

Strengths:

  • Good athleticism; versatile player, who can also play OLB. At times you’ll see him walk out over No. 2 in coverage. He looks very capable in zone. Also able to cover backs in man coverage.
  • Good quicks to be an effective blitzer.
  • Shows good technique in using his hands to shed blocks.

Areas of Improvement:

  • Has to be a bit more forceful at the POA; at times he’ll wait and see before reacting; You can tell that he’s stuck in that grey area of being an OLB & ILB. Because of that, he’s probably a guy that you’ll have in on obvious passing downs, as his coverage skills are solid.
  • Could stand to get stronger and add some mass without losing speed and athleticism.

2020 outlook

There is going to be a ton of competition for linebacker/edge spots with the Giants this season. Between returning plays with potential and the number of late-round draft picks the Giants used at those spots there is a logjam.

Will Ross be able to break through? He could be an interesting test of coach Joe Judge’s “tell me what a player can do, not what he can’t do” philosophy.

Coverage skills are paramount in today’s NFL, so maybe. Perhaps he is a sub-package coverage linebacker. Maybe he turns into an NFL box safety.

Best guess is that Ross is a player to keep an eye on for a berth on the practice squad.