The New York Giants drafted South Carolina linebacker T.J. Brunson in the seventh round this year. What can he ultimately bring to the team?
Depth is so important at any position in the NFL. The New York Giants certainly kept that notion in mind when the latter half of their draft-pick slate came along. In just the final two rounds, Big Blue selected four linebackers alone, one of which was South Carolina’s T.J. Brunson.
The 22-year-old was drafted with the No. 238 overall pick and is expected to serve as a depth piece behind inside linebackers Blake Martinez, Ryan Connelly, and David Mayo.
That’s, of course, if he makes the team. But in the event that he does, what will he ultimately be able to bring to this franchise?
Well, let’s take a look and see if his college film can answer that crucial question.
Film room notes
The first series of clips is from South Carolina’s September 2019 loss to Missouri (Brunson’s senior year). Brunson recorded a whopping 12 total tackles (nine solo) with one tackle for loss and one pass defended in the contest.
To start off, Brunson shows off a beneficial quality for all inside linebackers, and that’s the ability to break down, wrap up, and bring down the ball carrier, as portrayed on the next three plays.
In the earlier part of the first quarter, Brunson made a great play to meet the Missouri ball carrier as they lept to cross the plane. He ultimately stopped the Tiger from reaching the goal line.
Brunson’s on-field abilities aren’t just limited to stopping the run though, as he’s additionally able to drop back in coverage. If he can display versatility and succeed in either area in the pros, he’ll certainly catch the eye of this Joe Judge-led coaching staff.
During this upcoming third-quarter play, Brunson really puts his strength on display by wrapping up the ball carrier near the line of scrimmage and driving his feet until he hits the turf for just a one-yard gain.
Later on in the third, he proves his athleticism by getting a hand up to deflect a pass from Missouri quarterback Kelly Bryant on a first-down play.
Moving on, let’s take a look at South Carolina’s 2019 defeat at the hands of the arch-rival Clemson Tigers, a matchup in which Brunson racked up six combined tackles (five solo) with one tackle for loss and a pair of pass breakups.
In this initial clip, Brunson finds himself part of a tremendous early-game play for the South Carolina defense, as he plays a significant role on a goal-line stand.
Brunson then portrays his above-average speed during the upcoming pair of plays. First, he comes across the field and takes a great angle en route to making contact with Clemson running back Lyn-J Dixon. And then, he correctly reads the screen to Dixon and quickly comes up to make the big tackle for loss.
During this late first-half play, Brunson actually lines up as a corner, proving he can be trusted to perform in multiple spots on the defensive side of the ball.
He lines up as more of a corner once again on this third-quarter play before covering the flat and eventually forcing the incompletion.
In this last clip, Brunson shows he can additionally perform as a pass rusher, lining up on the edge before quickly coming on the blitz and deflecting a pass from Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence.
Brunson has a number of beneficial traits that will help him succeed at the next level. He doesn’t have the greatest size, but he portrays athleticism, speed, toughness, and strength from the inside linebacker position. And not to mention, he continues the trend of the Giants’ 2019 draft picks carrying versatility.
He can stop the run, drop off in coverage, line up on the edge before rushing the passer, and even line up as more of a corner. All in all, Brunson can be trusted to do a number of things, and it’ll be interesting to see where defensive coordinator Patrick Graham and inside linebackers coach Kevin Sherrer have him line up on the field.
Brunson won’t start on this team if he makes the active roster. No chance. He’s too raw right now and will be in a reserve role and perform on special teams while he looks to improve as an overall player.
Nonetheless, the South Carolina Gamecock’s journey through training camp and the preseason should be an interesting one to pay attention to as he hopes to undergo a productive start to his career.