It could be argued that one of the reasons why the New York Giants did not prioritize drafting an inside linebacker earlier in the 2022 draft is because of the presence of Tae Crowder.
The 2020 seventh-round pick out of Georgia--"Mr. Irrelevant"--had a productive 2021 season for New York. He started all 17 games and collected 130 tackles, including 64 solo tackles.
Crowder is in the mold of the new-age linebacker. He is not burley and replaces that size with athleticism. He is a little longer than some of the other guys. Those skills are what make him an intriguing long-term option for the Giants.
His ability to cover, speed and range as a run defender should make him a favorable option for a defensive coordinator. He also has some things he needs to clean up. Let’s look at the good, great, and ugly of the 25-year-old third-year linebacker.
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The Good: Coverage Ability
Coming out of college, Crowder showed that he could be a legitimate factor in pass coverage. He showed the ability to work in a zone or cover receivers man-to-man. In zone coverage, he has the explosiveness to close on a receiver quickly to make a pass breakup or to secure the tackle to ensure no run after the catch.
He has good agility, which allows him to stick with receivers longer while playing man-to-man defense, and his 6-foot-3 frame makes him perfect for guarding bigger-bodied slots or tight ends that operate in the passing game.
The two clips shown here are his two interceptions from last season.
The first shows his ability to stay attached to a receiver while a quarterback scrambles. The second shows how he uses his explosiveness to make up the distance from a receiver.
This running back pass was thrown because he thought Crowder was too far away to make a play on the ball, but Crowder was able to make up that distance in an instance.
The Great: Speed and Explosiveness
Crowder’s best asset is his speed and explosiveness. We already discussed how he uses it in pass coverage, but in today’s NFL, being able to close on a runner sideline to sideline is imperative to being a three-down linebacker.
Crowder can not only use his explosiveness to close an open gap but also to beat offensive linemen off the line as a rusher. He uses it to get to anything on the perimeter where it is sweeps, tosses, or quick screens.
His athleticism also allows him to weave around would-be blockers to make tackles. The first of the three clips shows his ability to chase down a ball carrier on a jet sweep.
The second shows how he runs down and makes a play on a running back looking to attack the perimeter. The third clip watches him explode off the line as a pass rusher.
He completely shocks the quarterback with how quickly he is in his face, which forces the quarterback to get rid of the ball much earlier than he wanted to.
The Ugly: Tackling
At the end of the day, the goal is to get ball carriers on the ground, and Crowder does that. But from a technical standpoint, he has some holes to fill.
His pad level tends to be too high, and his explosiveness does not always come through in his tackling. He tends to grab and allow the ball carrier to get extra yards. He needs to work on running his feet through the tackle.
Sometimes your greatest gift can produce issues. All that athleticism can result in poor positioning when tackling. Look no further than two of the plays we used to show his athleticism. Focus on the tackling on both plays.
The first is him attacking the ball carrier on the run, so he cannot stop their momentum; he’s only able to ride him out of bounds. In the second play, he tried to tackle way too high, but luckily, other bodies were flying to the ball.
Crowder should be in the Giants' plans. His skill set is transferable to any defense. He is a high-motor guy with speed to match.
Crowder could solidify himself as that second inside linebacker, especially because he can be special as a blitzer and as a coverage option. None of his deficiencies are irreparable, and as he matures and gains confidence in his role, he will be better and better.
The Giants are in a much better position to absorb a big injury at linebacker this year because of the strides Crowder made last season. That experience should be invaluable going into 2022.