Antrel Rolle having best season yet with Giants?

Despite two Pro Bowl seasons and a consistently strong resume, Giants safety Antrel Rolle may individually be topping anything he's done in the past. Some might say (this guy included) that this is the veteran's best season to date.

Rolle, who turns 31 next week, isn't going to argue. He's especially proud of what he's been able to do on the field, in the huddle and in the locker room.

“This is definitely up there as one of my best seasons. I’m not just speaking of interceptions and sacks,” he said. “I think overall performances, as far as what I’ve been asked to do for this defense, how I’ve been able to … more so grab a hold of others, pretty much get a lot of us on the same page at the same time. This is definitely up there as my best or second-best season.”

Statistically, this is already Rolle’s most productive season. His two sacks are a career high. His five interceptions are tied for a career high. His 10 passes defended are tied for a career high. His 77 tackles have him on pace for another 90-plus season.

But what has really stood out to his teammates and coaches is what he means to the team. Rolle is an unquestioned leader. He demands the respect of his teammates, not only for his play, but for his attitude. He helped the team stay together despite an awful 0-6 start.
“Everything I think he thinks of and does is truly in the best interest of our team. As I like to say, when he was elected captain, he’s shown true ownership of this team,” said coach Tom Coughlin.

“He certainly has [grown into the leadership role] in terms of the recognition on the part of his teammates. That’s why I would say that is how he was elected captain [this year].”

Rolle came to the Giants in 2010 after a Pro Bowl season in Arizona. He earned the honor again his first season with the Giants. That year he finished with 100 tackles and one interception. Pro Football Focus rated him in the bottom half of their safety ratings each of his first three seasons in New York. He's 20th out of 87 safeties this season.

Most of the players in the locker room seem to think this has been his best season with the Giants. Coughlin isn’t going to argue with that assessment either.
“I like to think in a body of work it is. He certainly has some impressive numbers. He’s been there and he’s a tough guy," Coughlin said. “He refuses under any circumstance not to be in there. So I think I would say, yeah. In the time that he’s been here, this is a good season.”

Whether or not the rest of the NFL notices is another story. Right now, Rolle is third among strong safeties in the Pro Bowl voting. Chicago’s Major Wright and Troy Polamalu are right on his heels despite down seasons. The top three strong safeties get selected to the Pro Bowl.

It’s not something Rolle concerns himself with, even with the Giants in the midst of a down season and having already been eliminated from the playoffs. Rolle had no idea where he stood in the Pro Bowl voting until I informed him of the most recent results.

“As far as the Pro Bowl, it is what it is. I play for myself, I play for my team, I play for my organization,” Rolle said. “As long as they see my work, that really is the only thing that matters to me.”

It hasn’t been an easy season. Twice (vs. Philadelphia and Dallas) Rolle's been asked to serve as an emergency fill-in at slot cornerback. It's been well documented how it turned out against the Cowboys. It wasn't pretty.

But Rolle didn’t make excuses. He also didn’t boast about how he was successful the first time. The Eagles’ Jason Avant finished with three catches for 33 yards on seven targets in that contest, matched mostly against Rolle.

This is what the Giants have come to expect – reliability, accountability and productivity. Rolle has never missed a game since joining the Giants as a free agent in 2010. He’s never finished with less than 90 tackles. He hasn't complained about his recent ever-changing role or the increase in responsibilities.
And at 30 years old, he might have had his best season yet.

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