Christopher Mulgrave

Antrel Rolle Is The New Leader Of The Giants Defense

Created on Mar. 21, 2014 6:00 AM EST

Opinionated and passionate are just a few descriptions of New York Giants S Antrel Rolle. Last season, Rolle was the most consistent and, arguably, best player on a Giants defense that finished eighth in the league in total yards allowed. With the departure of Justin Tuck to the Oakland Raiders this offseason, I believe Rolle has become the leader of the Giants defense.  

Rolle was drafted eighth overall by the Arizona Cardinals in the 2005 draft. He played his college ball at the University of Miami, an institution that has been a factory in producing outstanding NFL players. He was a good corner in college and a solid corner in his first few years with the Cardinals, but Ken Wisenhunt, who was head coach of the Cardinals at that time, thought it would best if Rolle moved to safety. The position switch was seamless because the new position fit Rolle’s skillset perfectly. Rolle was a good tackler for a cornerback. In addition, he could read and react against different pass formations and make a play on the ball when the opportunity presented itself. He had all the makings of a very good safety. The Cardinals coaching staff was spot on in suggesting a position switch.  Rolle made in the Pro Bowl in 2009, his second year starting at safety with the Cardinals.

After the 2009 season, Rolle left the Cardinals to sign a five-year contract with the Giants worth $37 million with $15 million guaranteed. Rolle has been a very solid player for the Giants. In his first year with the Giants he was selected to the Pro Bowl and named second-team All-Pro. In 2011, Rolle became more of a vocal leader on the team. The Giants started the season hot at a 6-2 mark and then lost four straight. People were calling for head coach Tom Coughlin’s head at that time. In Week 15 of that season the Giants lost 23-10 to the Washington Redskins. Their record fell to 7-7 and the Giants were in danger of missing the playoffs for second straight year. Rolle delivered a strong message to his team after the game: “I’m not calling anyone out. It’s not about individuals,” Rolle said. “What I’m saying is this — and quote me on this — if you’re going to play Sunday … granted, some injuries you can’t practice through, I understand that. But little nicks and bruises? If you can push through it, push through it because your team needs you.”

Rolle questioned his team’s toughness and desire to win. The team responded by winning their last two regular season games. They clinched the division title and went on to win the Super Bowl against the New England Patriots for the second time in five seasons. Rolle has been known to do be a talker, which can be a double-edged sword in some locker rooms, but I think Rolle’s vocal leadership and play was a contributing factor to the team success that season. In the 2013 season Rolle had an excellent year despite the team not meeting expectations, finishing with a 7-9 record. Rolle was selected to the Pro Bowl and named second-team All-Pro. He led the team in tackles with 80 and interceptions with six, which was second highest in the NFL last season.

The Giants are undergoing another transition in leadership on the defensive side of the ball. When the Coughlin era began, Michael Strahan was the vocal leader of the defense, then Tuck and, now, I think Rolle will take over as the leader of the Giants defense. These are big shoes to fill, but I think Rolle will be up to the challenge. Rolle has been an excellent player and solid person off the field. This offseason Rolle received the Thurman Munson award, which recognizes a New York athlete’s play on the field and philanthropic works off the field.

Contract Year?

Rolle is set to become an unrestricted free agent at the end of the 2014 season. Rolle will turn 32 in December, and I am interested to see whether the Giants will want Rolle back with the team and what dollar value both sides put toward Rolle’s play. This story sounds very similar to what occurred in the Giants negotiations with Tuck. Tuck didn’t think there was much of a negotiation for what it is worth.

Rolle has stated that he wants to return to the team, and I think he has a lot left in the tank since he is coming off what may be his best season in the league. Contract talk notwithstanding, Rolle thinks the Giants defense can be "onto something spectacular"  in 2014. Rolle is always good for a good quote, which is something people in media enjoy very much. I’m sure many Giants fans hope his comments on the prospects of the defense next season turns out to be accurate.

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