He was the camp darling a year ago. Rightfully so too. Tuzar Skipper had a fantastic training camp and preseason and if you forgot, made the initial 53 man roster before getting released on the eve of Week One. He spent part of the year with the Giants, circled back to Pittsburgh, and is looking to stick this time around. But his odds got a lot tougher after the union announced there won’t be any preseason games in 2020.
Of course, any young player, anyone battling for a roster spot just saw his chances get dinged, much to my chagrin as I wrote about yesterday. But Skipper’s in a weird camp. One reason why the team didn’t keep him last season was a perceived lack of special teams value. For whatever reason, the team refused to play him there until the 2019 preseason finale, where he did well with two tackles, but it was too little, too late.
The number one thing he’d have to prove this year is that special teams value. Something next to impossible to do without any in-stadium work. Offense and defense can still show a little during team drills in practice but special teams sessions are only down at half-speed and never involve tackling. It’s all technique, situational, which has obvious value, but the guys who make the roster are the dudes who make plays. He only logged 27 snaps on special teams as a Giant too so the NFL tape at basically any level doesn’t exist.
And he’s competing for a final spot with guys who have much more extensive special teams resumes. Ola Adeniyi isn’t an elite special teamer but played 220 snaps there during the regular season. Alex Highsmith is a 3rd rounder who’s going to make the roster and off-ball linebackers like Robert Spillane and Ulysees Gilbert III proved their special teams worth in 2019.
So Skipper’s in a tough spot. His ability to rush the passer isn’t up in the air, we know he has at least some ability to do it. But if the thing holding him back is trust covering kicks and punts, he won’t have the opportunity to change the coaching staff’s mind this summer. He could still make the roster despite that as the 9th linebacker but he’ll be squarely on the bubble over the next month.