Special teams are special - few teams understand this like the New York Giants. Big Blue currently has a head coach with a special teams background, a proven special teams coordinator in Thomas McGaughey, and Tom Coughlin’s former special teams’ coach, Tom Quinn.
Call it the “New England way,” or refer to it as intelligent football. The Giants prioritize the third and least talked about element of football. New York substantiated this claim when they traded a 2023 sixth-round pick to the Houston Texans for cornerback Keion Crossen.
Crossen was a 2018 seventh-round pick out of Western Carolina by the New England Patriots. He is known as a special teams ace. Crossen had eight tackles last season on special teams alone, and he has 21 total special team tackles in his three-year career. Crossen has been wildly productive as a gunner on punt team, a jammer on punt return, and a kick coverage specialist.
The 25-year-old has played in 43 career games, starting four. Other than Crossen’s 21 solo special teams tackles, he also accrued 38 solo tackles on defense. He has one career interception and six passes defended. Let’s see some film on his special teams’ ability from last season.
(Keion Crossen is No. 35)
First, we’re still dealing with NFL Game Pass issues, so apologies for the quality of the film. Crossen is the gunner towards the bottom of the screen. His objective is to contain and beat the jammer to put himself into an advantageous position to tackle the ball carrier or box the player inside. Crossen doesn’t allow the jammer to gain access to his inside hip, and he virtually goes untouched up the field, avoiding substantial contact. We see how he essentially stacks on the jammer, much like a receiver would a cornerback in coverage. This eliminates the jammer and forces the fair catch. Crossen shows an excellent blend of explosiveness, acceleration, and bend to avoid contact and execute the correct path to mitigate a return.
Above, Crossen released outside again, only this time at the top of the screen. He cleanly beats the jammer, stacks, and separates. The jammer gives up on his assignment once beaten, and looks for work, but the punt returner doesn’t call for a fair catch. This allows Crossen to wrap the returner up and bring him to the ground.
At the top of the screen, Crossen beats the jammer inside and then redirects himself off the adjustment of the jammer. I love how Crossen adjusts at the last second back outside once he realizes the landing spot of the punt. It’s subtle, but it shows awareness and then good change of direction as he avoids the jammer, yet again, to put himself into a better position.
The GIF generator I use doesn’t allow GIFs longer than 10 seconds, so some start a bit late. Crossen uses that quickness we saw earlier to win inside at the line of scrimmage. His acceleration allows him to separate past the jammer, and then he uses quality tempo to pace himself before making the tackle.
Crossen is so quick to get downfield on this rep that it’s below 10 seconds. He releases inside, dips his outside shoulder, adjusts his path away from the jammer, and then uses his excellent athletic ability to avoid contact. This confluence of skill forces the fair catch.
Crossen is aligned at the bottom of the screen. At the beginning of the snap, he’s tilted with inside leverage. He battles through hand fighting and positions himself in an excellent place to disallow the gunner from gaining an advantage. Crossen rides the inside hip of the gunner, keeping his shoulders square and bumping the gunner off the direction of his landmarks. Crossen is a nuisance as a jammer here, and I love to see it.
We see something similar here; Crossen is towards the bottom (or right) of the screen, and he is glued to the gunner’s inside hip. Crossen keeps pace, doesn’t allow distance, and continues the bump technique. The punt goes into the end zone for a touchback - the desired outcome for the Texans.
Crossen excels on kickoff coverage as well. He takes a nice tight path once the blocks and returner commit, and then he is able to make the tackle from the back-side of the play. Crossen plays like a man with his hair on fire - competitive toughness and hustle are through the roof.
He shows off another great use of technique, timing, and tempo control. Crossen has all his momentum coming forward till he gets to about the 17-yard line. Then he slows himself down and watches the blocks. Crossen plays contain until the returner commits vertically. He waits for No. 33 to absorb the block, and then pounces inside to make the tackle. Crossen shows good awareness and adjustment in this play.
Crossen quickly gets another tackle against the Lions on special teams. He flies into the screen and trips the returner up, showing excellent athletic traits in the process.
Keion Crossen has a solid case to make this roster for his special teams’ value. Matt Cole, an undersized wide receiver the Giants signed two weeks ago, had an excellent play as a gunner on the punt team. Cole will look to continue proving his worth on special teams, but Crossen’s experience and effectiveness give him the upper hand.
C.J. Board is another player who had a solid 2020 season on special teams as a gunner. From the film I’ve seen, I believe Crossen provides more value than Board in this area. I wouldn’t be shocked to see Crossen earn one of the coveted final 53 roster spots. He’s undoubtedly a Joe Judge type of player.