EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) On the first day of training camp, well-traveled cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie showed why the New York Giants signed him to a five-year, $35 million contract in the offseason.
Eli Manning faded back and launched a long pass downfield for first-round draft pick Odell Beckham Jr., only to see Rodgers-Cromartie intercept the ball and return it.
The 28-year-old is in the prime of his career and he gives the Giants probably their best shutdown cornerback in years. Now entering his seventh season, Rodgers-Cromartie makes plays. He has 19 career interceptions, including five returned for touchdowns.
It’s the kind of play the Giants will need this season if they want to get back to the playoffs for the first time since winning the Super Bowl in February 2012.
”I don’t have any expectation or goals,” Rodgers-Cromartie said last week. ”I take each week, week by week, and just go out there and improve myself and the team. I would say I want to lead by example. I am not much of a talker. I don’t really like to talk. I am a quiet, keep to myself kind of guy.”
That was true this week as the Giants (3-0) prepared for their annual preseason game against the Jets (2-0) at MetLife Stadium. Rodgers-Cromartie turned down an interview request from The Associated Press on Wednesday despite some urging from the team’s public relations staff.
On the field, Rodgers-Cromartie continues to impress. The former Tennessee State star showed tremendous closing speed and leaping ability in nearly intercepting a deep pass for Mario Manningham on Monday, and he has been stingy in letting receivers catch balls in his area.
”He is a really good player,” wide receiver Victor Cruz said Wednesday. ”He is instinctive and through coverages, he is able read what route combinations are coming.”
Rodgers-Cromartie is coming off a season in which he played in the Super Bowl after signing with Denver as a free agent. He played in 15 regular-season games, with 13 starts at right cornerback. He finished the season with 31 tackles, a team-high 15 passes defensed, and tied for the team lead with three interceptions, including one of Eli Manning passes late in the second quarter in Denver’s victory over the Giants at the Meadowlands on Sept. 15.
The signing of Rodgers-Cromartie and former Seattle Seahawk Walter Thurmond has made the secondary probably the Giants’ deepest unit. Safeties Antrel Rolle and Stevie Brown are back along with cornerback Prince Amukamara, who sustained a groin injury last weekend that he does not consider serious.
Rodgers-Cromartie believes this unit will gel quickly.
”When you are young, it takes time,” he said. ”I could say that with Walt coming over, me, `Trel and already having Prince and Stevie. All of those guys still being here has made it (a smooth transition) because we understand their game plan and have adapted to the Giants way.”
Playing with Rolle should also help Rodgers-Cromartie. The two were teammates for two seasons in Arizona, and Rodgers-Cromartie had six interceptions and made the Pro Bowl in 2009 with Rolle playing behind him.
After that season he was traded to Philadelphia for two so-years with the Eagles before signing with the Broncos.
Coach Tom Coughlin believes Rodgers-Cromartie can be a playmaker for the Giants.
”(He) catches the ball well, he’s aware of where the ball is, when it arrives,” the coach said. ”He’s very good at that.”
The Giants didn’t have a cornerback who did that last season. Trumaine McBride led the group with two interceptions.
NOTES: Second-year safety Cooper Taylor will need surgery to repair a foot injury sustained last weekend against Indianapolis, making him a candidate for injured reserve. … The starters are expected to play a half on Friday night against the Jets. OT Wlll Beatty probably will play 20 snaps in his second action of the preseason, the same as CB Trumaine McBride, who also played for the first time last weekend. . … CBs Prince Amukamara (groin) and Jayron Hosley (foot), WRs Beckham (hamstring) and Trindon Holliday (hamstring), OL Charles Brown (shoulder) and James Brewer (back), RB Peyton Hillis (ankle/foot) and TE Xavier Grimble (hamstring) did not practice Wednesday and probably won’t play Friday.
AP NFL websites: www.pro32.ap.org and www.twitter.com/AP-NFL