The 2020 NFL Draft’s Mr. Irrelevant has been very much relevant within the New York Giants’ defense in recent days.
With David Mayo, the team’s returning leading tackler, expected to miss approximately a month with a torn meniscus, and big-ticket free-agent Blake Martinez dealing with an increasingly mysterious injury, Tae Crowder has quickly worked his way up the linebacker depth chart in New York.
Have the Giants Found a Gem in Crowder?
By most accounts, Crowder did more than hold his own on Friday night. The former Georgia Bulldog earned positive feedback for his play from NorthJersey.com’s Art Stapleton, who earlier pegged Crowder as one of the Giants players with the most to gain ahead of the scrimmage.
Earning praise from Stapleton has been a somewhat common occurrence for Crowder this summer. The former high school running back has flashed his movement skills throughout camp, headlining Stapleton’s Under the Radar Giants Stepping Up Without Camp Spotlight.
Crowder’s skill set makes him an intriguing option in sub packages at inside linebacker. And while he may not be in line to steal snaps away from the projected regulars early in the regular season, Crowder moves around well. He’s got the type of versatility to emerge in Patrick Graham’s system. The more comfortable he gets, the more pressure he’ll likely put on the players above him on the depth chart.
ESPN’s Jordan Raanan has made similar observations of Crowder, pegging the 23-year-old as an “interesting player to watch,” adding that he “moves and covers real well.”
There may be no better example of Crowder’s movement skills than when he recently demolished teammate Wayne Gallman on a running play during a Giants practice, flashing impressive instincts, speed and explosiveness all in one play.
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Is Crowder a Lock to Make the Team?
Like any seventh-round pick, Crowder originally appeared to be a longshot to make the Giants’ opening day roster. This is especially true on a team whose draft class consisted of three other players at Crowder’s position.
However, the combination of injuries to players ahead of him and his camp performance thus far has firmly placed Crowder in the running of not only taking the field come Week 1 against the Pittsburgh Steelers, but playing meaningful snaps.
Over the past decade, the Giants have consistently lacked a legitimate coverage linebacker to counteract the ever-evolving aerial attack among NFL offenses. Their current slew of linebackers are no different.
Big Blue handed Blake Martinez a hefty $30M contract this offseason, mainly for his production in the run game. However, in coverage, he’s earned a Pro Football Focus grade of just 47.6 or below in two of his four pro seasons. The aforementioned David Mayo is not much better, as his 48.8 PFF coverage grade in 2019 ranked 70th among 89 qualifying linebackers.
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