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LB Tae Crowder steps in for injured captain Blake Martinez


EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – Football coaches like to say that once a player makes their team, it's irrelevant how he arrived.

For Joe Judge, Exhibit A this week is Tae Crowder.

The Giants' second-year linebacker was the 255th and final selection in the 2020 NFL Draft. That earned - if that's the correct word – Crowder the title of Mr. Irrelevant. But Crowder has been anything but.

As a rookie last year, he started six of the 11 games in which he played and scored the game-winning touchdown in the Giants' first victory on a 43-yard fumble return against Washington. This week, his importance to the team will be elevated if, as expected, he assumes the defensive play-calling duties against the Saints in New Orleans. Blake Martinez, who held that responsibility since his arrival last year, is out for the season after tearing his left ACL in Sunday's game against Atlanta.

On Monday, Judge mentioned Reggie Ragland and rookie Justin Hilliard as candidates to have the green dot, which is on the players who receive the calls from the sideline. But this is Crowder's second season in Patrick Graham's defense, and he commanded the huddle Sunday when he played all but one of the Giants' 62 defensive snaps.

"There were some things we want to clean up here or there, but I thought in terms of him jumping into the position as a signal-caller, it was something we work on during the week to make sure he's ready if it comes up," Judge said. "I thought he did a good job of that. We had the one communication issue where the headset went down in the game and we had to call a timeout. Other than that, he was very good with making sure everyone had the call, got it directly, got his guys lined up. I thought he played well. I thought he showed some physicality, some real aggressiveness with how he played, so I was really pleased with what Tae did (Sunday) in the game."

Crowder had to change helmets after Martinez was injured on the game's first series.

"We have like three signal-caller helmets just in case," Crowder said. "They just have a backup helmet with the signal-caller thing already in there, and we just switch it over as soon as we need it. … We always talk about it before the game who the next man would be."

Hearing voices in his helmet was not unusual for Crowder.

"It was fine," he said. "I was hearing it in practice. Switching it over in the game was kind of different just because a game is way more serious, but it was a great experience to have.

"I feel like coaches do a great job of preparing us each day by giving us all the player calls that go into the helmet, and just being prepared for if someone does go down, you're ready to step up and be the signal-caller."

Crowder led the Giants in the game with 11 tackles (four solo). Through three games, he is third on the team with 18 stops. Aside from being the point man in the huddle, Crowder said his role will not change.

"I think it's the same," he said. "I just keep preparing and just come to work each day of practice. I just do what I've been doing and do what the coaches are telling me to do. I just come out, work hard, and just keep going."

Crowder makes it sound mundane, but he's made an impressive leap from Mr. Irrelevant to the middle of the Giants' defense.

"I really don't even think about it," he said. "I just try to be the best player I can be for the team. I come to work each day and be the best version of myself."

*The Giants today officially placed Martinez on injured reserve. They announced Monday that he would miss the remainder of the season.

"It'll be tough (without Martinez)," Crowder said. "Blake is a leader. He's one of the captains of the defense, so that's always tough losing the captain of the defense, but it's next man up mentality."

*The Giants today held two walk-throughs instead of their customary beginning of the workweek Wednesday workout.

"It was pre-planned last week in terms of being on the back end of a four-game stretch going into two road games, so we're going to work a little bit differently in terms of splitting up the day today and working on early downs," Judge said. "Simulate Wednesday in the morning, come back in the afternoon to simulate a Thursday. This is very similar to what we did last week against Washington, getting ready for the Thursday game, so kind of putting a lot into one day, giving them a chance to get a jump start, and then we'll go ahead and push on through some on-the-field higher speed prep on Thursday, then Friday practice being Friday practice."

*Wide receiver John Ross returned to the field. Ross, an offseason acquisition, has been on injured reserve with a hamstring injury he suffered in training camp and which forced him to miss the entire preseason. The Giants have three weeks to activate Ross or keep him on I.R.

*The timing of Ross' return could prove to be fortuitous because wideouts Sterling Shepard and Darius Slayton each injured their hamstrings against Atlanta. Their status for the New Orleans game, as well as that of left guard Ben Bredeson, who has a hand injury, is uncertain.

"We'll kind of get a better feel today," Judge said. "I would say, obviously, today is a walkthrough. If this was a full-speed day, we wouldn't see these guys in full-speed action. We have a little bit more time going into the game and stuff like that. We'll see coming out today and how tomorrow looks right there."

*Had the Giants held a full practice, the following players would have been limited: running back Saquon Barkley (knee), fullback Cullen Gillaspia (ankle), tight end Kaden Smith (knee), defensive backs Logan Ryan (hamstring), Keion Crossen (elbow) and Nate Ebner (quad), and long snapper Casey Kreiter (knee).

*The Giants have made several practice squad transactions in the last two days. Wide receiver Matt Cole, tackle Foster Sarell and defensive tackle Willie Henry were terminated.

Linebacker Omari Cobb and guard Sam Jones were signed to the practice squad.

Cobb, 6-4 and 223 pounds, played in one game and had one tackle for the 2020 Kansas City Chiefs. He was signed as a rookie free agent last year and spent most of the season on the Chiefs' practice squad. Cobb was released from the practice squad on Sept. 14. In four seasons at Marshall University, he had 248 tackles and 11.0 sacks.

Jones, 6-5 and 290 pounds played in five games for the 2018 Denver Broncos, who selected him in the sixth round of that year's NFL Draft, from Arizona State. He has since been with Arizona, Indianapolis, and Atlanta, which released Jones from its practice squad on Sept. 7.

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