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Ray-Ray Armstrong finding success with Giants

New York Giants outside linebacker Ray-Ray Armstrong (55) during an NFL football game against the Arizona Cardinals, Sunday, Dec. 24, 2017, in Glendale, Ariz. The Cardinals won 23-0. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)
New York Giants outside linebacker Ray-Ray Armstrong (55) during an NFL football game against the Arizona Cardinals, Sunday, Dec. 24, 2017, in Glendale, Ariz. The Cardinals won 23-0. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)

Adversity is always around the corner in the NFL. For Ray-Ray Armstrong, he's faced it at every turn in his journey. 

The Giants linebacker was originally signed as an undrafted rookie free agent by the Rams in 2013, but was waived in 2014. He then joined with the Raiders, only to be let go the following year. After being signed by the 49ers, he went on injured reserve with a pectoral injury two games into the season, which had looked promising until that point. 

In 2017, Armstrong was second on the Niners with 53 tackles and had two interceptions through 10 games before being waived during the season for the third time in his career. After signing with the Giants three days after being waived, he's hoping to stick. 

"It's something that will always be in the back of your mind," Armstrong said. "You thought you were doing well for someone, and then all of the sudden you're not there anymore. When I came here, I had to erase that and put it in the back of my head and keep moving forward."

Entering the NFL, Armstrong faced the challenge of moving from safety, a position he had played all his life, to linebacker. The way he played safety at the University of Miami helped prepare him for his position change.

"The safety position I played in college, I was in the box a lot," Armstrong said. "So I was down playing in the box for run support and stuff like that, but also played in the post." 

There were some aspects of the position, however, that took a little getting used to at linebacker.

"It wasn't a hard transition, but it was some stuff that I had to pick up," Armstrong said. "It happens a lot faster at the linebacker position than back there at safety and you can't really afford false steps at linebacker. It was just little things like that that I had to pick up on really quick."

Bouncing around from team to team, Armstrong had to learn new defenses on the fly in order to make an impact right away. Last year coming from the 49ers to the Giants, he needed to do it again. 

"Coming in, the time that I came in, it was kind of a do-or-die situation for me, personally," Armstrong said. "It's the last five games of the year, you want to get out there, you try to get some defensive reps. Only way you can do that is learn the defense as quick as possible. I was just trying to take that in stride and pick up whatever things they had for me to do and run with it."

Entering his sixth year, Armstrong feels more comfortable as a linebacker. Communication is key when it comes to defense, and he won't shy away from speaking up. 

"If I see something that needs to be corrected, I'm going to speak on it," he said. "And the same way with them. We all have to accountable and hold each other up to that standard."

With Armstrong's experience in defending the pass as a safety, he believes it helps him greatly now as a linebacker. That was proven by his interception in last week's preseason victory against the Lions. The Giants could use more plays like that after ranking 31st in pass defense a year ago. 

"As a linebacker, he's long and he can cover," coach Pat Shurmur said. "He's what linebackers should look like and he's made progress. We feel like he's done some really good things as we work through training camp, so it was good to see him have some success. We felt like he had a winning performance in the game the other night, and every once in a while everybody has a bad play, but in total we felt like it was a winning performance and that was a game-changing play. We were able to intercept the ball, get it close and then offensively, we then punched it in, so it was good."

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