Position Battles: Linebackers

In the past, the Giants have been criticized for being too old and slow in their linebacking corps, unable to cover pass catching running backs like Brian Westbrook or athletic tight ends like Jason Witten and Brent Celek. Well, with the departure and retirement of Antonio Pierce, the current Gmen linebacker with the most experience? Chase Blackburn and Michael Boley, both heading into season number six. As with most youth movements, there are going to be doubters and detractors. Yahoo Sports recently named the Giants linebacking kids the third worst group in the NFL. The last time the Giants went into a season with an unproven group of young players, it was last season and the wide receiving group turned out to exceed all expectations. Steve Smith emerged as a star. Will one of the young linebackers do the same?

Through the draft the Giants added two players, fourth round selection Phillip Dilliard and sixth round pick Adrian Tracy. Add that to the current linebackers on the roster, Chase Blackburn, Michael Boley, fan favorite Zak DeOssie, Jonathan Goff, Brian Kehl, Clint Sintim, Gerris Wilkinson, and Kenny Ingram (who has never entered a game). None of those names ring out like those old Giants linebackers of lore. But who knows what we will think of them after this season?

The race for the Mike or Middle Linebacker boils down to 4 players: Goff, Dilliard, Wilkinson, and Blackburn. Whoever wins the competition will be expected to quarterback the defense the same way Antonio Pierce did under previous defensive coordinators, which could be too much to throw on rookie Dilliard’s plate immediately. Many fans were playing Rolando McClain was going to fall to the Giants in the first round, but that obviously didn’t happen. The Giants obviously expect a lot from Dilliard, but how much they can realistically expect from a first year player remains to be seen. Of all the races profiled thus far this one seems the most wide open. Jonathan Goff has been getting most of the reps so far with the first team, with Dilliard mostly with the second, but really none of the four options have been ruled out yet, and while it could very well be Goff’s to lose, it would be just as easy for Dilliar for even Blackburn or Wilkinson to win it.

Michael Boley spent parts of last season hurt, but when he did play he did so servicably. He should remain as the starter at one of the outside linebacker spots. The other outside spot most likely belongs to Clint Sintim, who has seen a few reps in the middle himself. If the season ended today, it would most likely be Boley and Sintim on the outside with Goff anchoring the middle. The Giants know more or less what to expect from Boley, as long as he stays healthy. It is Goff and even more Sintim that are the players to watch. Of course, if the front four do their job, they will help cover up any weakness in the young linebacking corps.

Topics: Adrian Tracy, Antonio Pierce, Brian Kehl, Chase Blackburn, Clint Sintim, Gerris Wilkinson, Giants, New York Giants, Popular, Featured, Justin Tuck, Giants/National Football League, Jonathan Goff, Kenny Ingram, Linebacker, Michael Boley, MLB, OLB, Phillip Dilliard, Rolando McClain, Steve Smith, Zak DeOssie

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