On early Monday evening, Adam Schefter reported that the New York Giants have agreed to a five-year contract with the top cornerback left on the market, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie. The terms of the deal have not been officially released yet, but the deal is being initially reported as a five-year, $35 million contract.
Although several other free agent cornerbacks already signed, a strong case can be made that Rodgers-Cromartie is just as good as any of them.
Rodgers-Cromartie is certainly acquired at the peak of his production, as 2013 was his best season in the NFL. As I’ve mentioned before, using interception and pass deflections as the stats to determine a cornerback’s worth is incorrect and ignorant. The best cornerbacks are less likely to be frequently targeted by an opposing quarterback.
The advanced statistics and individual game charting website Pro Football Focus does an excellent job of narrowing down what really determines a cornerback’s success. According to Pro Football Focus, Rodgers-Cromartie finished as the fifth-best cornerback overall out of 110 qualifiers who played at least 25 percent of their team’s snaps.
Digging a little deeper, Rodgers-Cromartie was targeted 68 times in 2013 and only yielded 30 completions against. Opposing quarterbacks had just a 67.8 QB rating when targeting him, and he gave up just four touchdowns in coverage the whole season.
Perhaps the most impressive thing Rodgers-Cromartie boasts is his size and speed combination. At 6-foot-2 and 193 pounds, Rodgers-Cromartie ran a 4.29 forty-yard-dash at the NFL Combine. He has always had the physical tools, but in 2013 he finally put it all together from a mental standpoint — concerns with his passion for the game were previously questioned.
The Giants have taken a pass defense that performed right around the league average in 2013 and have now added two stud cornerbacks who have success in both press-man and zone schemes. The other cornerback they added was Walter Thurmond III from the Seahawks.
Thurmond has not given up a single touchdown while in primary coverage since the 2011 season. However, these two cornerback have a skill set that projects best to press-man coverage, and you can expect Giants’ defensive coordinator Perry Fewell to use this coverage scheme more in 2014.
In the last five games during the 2013 season, Fewell used cornerbacks Prince Amukamara and Trumaine McBride this way — something middle linebacker Jon Beason termed as “simplifying the defense”.
Rodgers-Cromartie will be the first shutdown cornerback the Giants have had since Jason Sehorn. Something to keep in mind: Rodgers-Cromartie was one of the few cornerbacks in the league who was used to shadowing opposing No. 1 receivers in single coverage.