The old school New York Football Giants love players that can play multiple positions. Frank Gifford played on both sides of the line of scrimmage from 1952 to 1964. The eight-time Pro Bowler made there at three different positions: running back (34 career rushing touchdowns), defensive back, and wideout (43 career receiving touchdowns). He also played quarterback.
While times have definitely changed, the Giants still have a strong affinity for players that can contribute in multiple facets of the game. One kid that definitely can fit multiple bills while in blue is safety Cooper Taylor. Several of the Big Blue Faithful have already voiced a very piqued curiosity about this draft pick. Recent OTA (organized team activities) comments from safeties coach Dave Merritt only intensify the interest.
“I like his size. I like his mental. Cooper is a very intelligent young man. Right now we have him playing the Will position as well as a safety and so I really like his size and his mental capacity, but he is a rookie. He’s messing up just like normal rookies would do and so he’s running around, but he has a lot on his plate. But I really like his size. 6-4, running a 4.4 40, I mean that’s pretty good. God didn’t bless me with that type of size, even as a linebacker.”
Immediate assumptions came post-draft about making Taylor a bit of a hybrid safety/linebacker out in defensive coordinator Perry Fewell’s scheme — especially the ones that call for more nickel and dime. Merritt’s statements, along with current depth at the safety position (Antrel Rolle, Stevie Brown, a transitioning Terrell Thomas, Ryan Mundy, Tyler Sash and Will Hill), suggest there could be some new (bigger at 6’5”, 230lbs.) blood in that backfield that can also drop down. The kid has one other Giants-like quality.
“I’m willing to play injured, and I’ve been very productive when I have done that,” said Taylor, pre-draft.
As some of those three and four safety looks benefited the Giants in 2012, this new type of transitional player may help even more in the 2013 NFL season, provided the crossbreed can fulfill the NFL level task before him. The general consensus seems to be leaning towards the affirmative.
Cooper Taylor was drafted in the fifth-round of this year’s draft from the University of Richmond, but the feelings of his previous coaches says he’s worth more. His Richmond Spiders head coach Danny Rocco (who himself played linebacker) thought highly of him — to the point where he an injury to Taylor had Rocco feeling “dejected” at the possible loss of his player.
"Cooper has the physical numbers to maybe be a linebacker, to play near the line of scrimmage, to rush the passer," Rocco said. "But he also has the range and speed and ball skills to play in the back end. The more he's fluid and moving around, the more he can give the offense different things to worry about and deal with."
Former coach (and current University of Richmond defensive coordinator) Bob Trott was also once with the New York Giants as a defensive assistant (’91-’92). He, too, has a strong and positive outlook for Taylor.
“Quite frankly, some NFL teams like big safeties, and some of them don’t,” Trott said. “I would love to coach him in the NFL. My experiences, with the safeties I’ve had, I’ll take him any day. He’s going to get a chance if he gets drafted or he doesn’t get drafted. He has got the intangibles. He’ll do really, really well on (an NFL) team. Some teams have him rated really high, and some teams don’t even have him on the board. It just really depends on what that team likes.”
General Manager Jerry Reese gave his obligatory comments post-draft about the pick.
“Cooper Taylor from Richmond is a transfer from Georgia Tech – big size-speed safety that we think has a really nice upside. I can envision him honestly on special teams with that size and speed. I can envision him being that third safety in some the three-safety looks that (defensive coordinator) Perry Fewell likes to use sometimes. A big, tough guy, we like his skill set. He’s got some redeeming qualities that we liked and he’ll create some competition in the backfield with our safety group.”
And one last tidbit spoke about the safety’s character, as Taylor spoke on Coughlin last month:
“Coach Coughlin is a hard-nosed guy, a great football coach who demands perfection, and definitely a person who strives at getting his players to understand and focus on the details. It definitely helps, especially as rookies, because we’re trying to figure out the game. In order to be great, you have to do the little things right, and coach Coughlin definitely teaches that, professes that, and tries to instill that in the rookies.”
Cooper Taylor already sounds like he fits the Big Blue uniform; next is whether or not he righteously begets our curiosity (and hopes).
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