Former NFL cornerback Dominque Rodgers-Cromartie, who spent the 2014-2017 seasons as a member of the New York Giants secondary, knows a thing or two about what it takes to have a strong defensive backfield.
Rodgers-Cromartie, who was voted to his second Pro Bowl in 2015 as a member of the Giants, was part of the tenth-ranked defense in 2017, a Giants unit that allowed an average of 339.3 yards per game to opponents.
So when Rodgers-Cromartie looks at the current Giants defense, notably the cornerback duo of James Bradberry and Adoree’ Jackson, Rodgers-Cromartie likes what this duo brings to the table.
“They have that shut down ability in them. I’ve seen both of them play, I know both can matchup if they need to, they can stay left or right, or you can have one of them follow a receiver’” said Rodgers Cromartie.
Rodgers-Cromartie, who these days is a receiver for the Kings of Florida of the American Flag Football League (AFFL), thinks the Giants defense is built for some great things in the coming year.
“It all comes down to that front seven. I think the Giants have some guys that can get off the ball that makes their life easier and then you have guys in the secondary,” he said in a video call with Giants Country earlier this week.
Though this Giants defense looks stronger than last season, one key area of concern in 2020 was their inability to deploy man coverage as much as defensive coordinator Patrick Graham might have preferred. This past spring, Graham spoke of wanting to deploy more man coverage, given that the league has evolved into more of a passing league.
However, to play man coverage, a team needs speed on the back end of the defense, something the Giants didn’t have enough of last season.
“I think man coverage is very important because you have to get into guy’s faces,” Rodgers-Cromartie said. “If you get a guy like Tom Brady or Aaron Rodgers, they’re going to eat the zone up all day. So you have to go man and you have to send blitzes and make them uncomfortable. But if you give them that time to sit back and pick you apart, they’re going to win every time.”
Whether more man coverage will be executed this year is something time will tell. But if the Giants want to field a better version than its NYPD—New York Pass Defense, which was the nickname given to the group when Rodgers-Cromartie was part of the unit—it’s not hard to see why Graham is itching to play more man coverage in the season ahead.
Speaking of the upcoming season, the Giants' training camp is about to evolve into the preseason games, the first of which is this Saturday when they host the New York Jets at MetLife Stadium. But to say that camp has been a smooth ride so far would be an understatement.
One significant yet unexpected development was the departure of three veteran players the Giants brought in over the offseason to reinforce critical areas of this team. In four days, guards Joe Looney and Zach Fulton and linebacker Todd Davis all retired after just a few days into training camp, the spate of retirements casting some question into the type of camp head coach Joe Judge has been running.
But Rodgers-Cromartie, who made that decision a few weeks into the 2018 regular season with the Raiders (he would come out of retirement the following year to sign with Washington only to land on injured reserve with a torn ligament in his ankle), said that for the most part, guys just know when it’s time to hang up the cleats. However, he added, sometimes the competitive nature that many athletes are born with gets in the way.
“You get to that point in your career where you got to start listening to your body. Your body will tell you a lot about what’s going on, so I get it,” he said. “
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“But I also come from a standpoint where if you got a little bit left in your tank, I think you should maximize it because this opportunity doesn’t come that often to people.”
Rodgers-Cromartie was also asked about the impact changing teams plays into an older veteran’s decision to retire.
“That plays a lot into it,” said Rodgers-Cromartie when asked how culture changes factor in when retiring. “When you get a place, and you start having a family, it’s all about your surroundings and what city and area you’re going to and who do you know on the team. All of that plays into it.
“I think for a younger guy it’s kind of harder because you’re still new and you’re still trying to find your way,” he added.
As he settled into his career, Rodgers-Cromartie didn’t find joining new teams and cultures challenging.
“Everywhere I went later in my career, I just fit right in,” he said. “I think for older players, it’s much easier because you know how to move, you understand the business and you understand that it’s football at the end of the day. And you just got to go there and establish yourself.”
Stepping away from the game can be very difficult, especially when one has dedicated the vast majority of life to it. But retirement has its perks as well as that it frees an athlete to pursue other interests.
One such interest that Rodgers-Cromartie has embraced just so happens to have seen him not have to stray too far from his competitive roots in football, and that is his affiliation with the AFFL, founded in 2017.
Rodgers-Cromartie and the Kings of Florida will be competing in the quarterfinals of this year’s tournament this weekend.
Rodgers-Cromartie said flag football has always been a big part of his life and how much the game means to him and that when allowed to connect with the AFFL, it was a natural fit.
“Since I can remember, I’ve been playing flag football in the offseason every year,” Rodgers-Cromartie said, adding that he first became affiliated with the Kings of Florida through participation in another flag football tournament.
The AFFL has seen its popularity steadily increase, particularly among former NFL players who still have the competitive juice and the physical stamina to compete. Some other names who have joined with the AFFFL include Vince Young, Michael Vick, Terrell Owens, and Jason Avant
“I think it’s going to be really big,” Rodgers-Cromartie said of the AFFL’s future. “Since I’ve been retired, I have been around the world playing flag football with the team I’m on now, from Charlotte, to Houston, to Vegas to New York. So it’s definitely big. The more its broadcasted and put on TV, I think it could be even bigger.”
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