There was no dancing around the subject. He didn’t leave himself any wiggle room.
Ben McAdoo is confident in sending rookie Dalvin Tomlinson out there Week 1 against the Cowboys and their elite offensive line.
“He’s a player that’s played at a tremendous level in the college game,” the Giants coach said Monday after practice. “He’s come in, he’s learned the system very well. He’s good with his hands, he plays with leverage, he destroys blocks. We feel he’ll be ready to play Week 1.”
For a coach who doesn’t often throw out such over-the-top praise, it spoke volumes. After a slow start, the young defensive tackle out of Alabama has given the Giants little reason to pause.
So when Jay Bromley, the projected starter at defensive tackle alongside Damon “Snacks” Harrison suffered a left knee injury in Saturday’s preseason victory over the Jets, McAdoo was willing to all but hand the job to Tomlinson until Bromley is back. While Bromley doesn’t believe the injury to be serious — an MRI showed “no significant damage,” he said — Bromley was unsure he would be able to practice next week, and therefore could miss the regular-season opener against the Cowboys.
“It would be amazing,” the 23-year-old Tomlinson said of his potential start in prime time on “Sunday Night Football”. “It’s one of the things you always look forward to, just playing in a big game like that, and a season opener.
“It’s hard to believe. It feels like yesterday I was just playing in the national championship game. It came pretty quick.”
Dalvin TomlinsonCharles Wenzelberg
Tomlinson, a 6-foot-3, 312-pound second-round pick, admitted to starting slowly in training camp as he learned the Giants system. Instead of reacting on natural instincts, he said he was thinking too much. He was “timid,” not wanting to miss assignments. But as he gained a grasp of the playbook, his ability has begun to take over.
“I can play at a faster pace [now],” said Tomlinson, who has performed well in the three preseason games, making nine tackles.
Tomlinson credits Harrison for a lot of the strides he’s made. The veteran has taken the rookie under his massive wing, staying in his ear about the importance of learning the playbook, refining his technique and how to properly prepare for practices and preseason games.
“It’s small things you probably wouldn’t see before he’s helping you on,” Tomlinson said.
The jump from college to the NFL isn’t quite as steep for Tomlinson as most rookies. As McAdoo mentioned, Tomlinson was used to facing elite competition in college, on game days and in practice. In five years at Alabama, he was often facing NFL-caliber linemen and battling similarly talented players for reps on the Crimson Tide’s famously deep defensive line.
“I think it prepared me a lot, because Coach [Nick] Saban has pretty much a college-NFL team,” said Tomlinson, one of 10 Alabama players to be selected in April’s draft. “It’s like a mini NFL program.”
He’s stood out to teammates, not only with his natural ability but with how fast he’s learning for a rookie. There doesn’t seem to be much apprehension about starting him within this win-now team.
“I’ve seen some impressive stuff on tape,” linebacker Jonathan Casillas said. “So I think for him to play for us, I think we’re all ready for him to play. … From what I’ve seen so far, he’s very strong, he’s very physical, and we’re going to need that play from him.”
Tomlinson will likely be the only rookie starter on a loaded defense that returned all of its star players. And he would be making his debut in the always intense Giants-Cowboys rivalry featuring the two teams that will likely decide the NFC East. There will be butterflies, Tomlinson said, because he feels them before every game, not because the moment will be too much.
“I feel like I am ready. I am up to the challenge,” he said. “They picked me to come here and play as a dominant defensive lineman and that’s what I plan to do.”