As the G-men head into the off-season earlier than usual, questions loom large for a franchise that had become accustomed to playoff fever during the past four seasons. No question appears bigger than who will be manning (sorry, pun intended) the middle linebacker spot for the G-men in 2010?
Antonio Pierce, the fiery leader of a formerly proud defensive unit, went on Injured Reserve at the end of November in 2009 season with a bulging desk in his neck; for a man who makes his living thumping running backs and busting through the line of scrimmage, a significant neck injury is not good news. Whispers could already be heard in the swirling Meadowlands’ winds indicating Pierce had fallen out of favor with Giants brass (thank you Antonio for having a night on the town with Plaxico Burress, I am not sure you have ever been forgiven for your role in the “shot through the thigh heard round the world” incident of November 2008). Couple that with Pierce’s liability in pass coverage, over-all diminished speed and his unrealistic hope for a contract extension, and something tells me that new Giants Defensive Coordinator Perry Fewell will be working in a new middle linebacker for a unit hoping to revert back to championship form.
Don’t get me wrong, I like Chase Blackburn (great Special Teams player and a solid effort guy), but I challenge anyone to tell me that Blackburn should be the starting middle linebacker in 2010. Ditto for Jonathan Goff, who was given a trial run in December; the former 5th round draft pick in 2008 out of Vanderbilt showed flashes of speed, but too often got caught up in traffic and whiffed on a few occasions on what should have been tackles for loss or big plays. While not dismissing Goff as a potential solution at middle linebacker, Jerry Reese and Co. would be wise to bring in some competition via the draft or free agency, especially given the unlikelihood of the return of a healthy (or happy) Antonio Pierce to the lineup.