GMEN HQ continues its positional breakdown series with news, notes and analysis on the linebacking corps as training camp is underway. There were many questions heading into 2013 about the Giants’ group of linebackers. Now, with 2014 right on the horizon, there also appears to be great uncertainty. The group is fairly young and unproven besides a few seasoned vets. Can they live up to the Giant LB tradition?
We shall see.
Overall, the G-Men still appear to be lacking a playmaker at the position and lack mobile pass coverage LB’s. With 10 linebackers currently on the roster, Big Blue will have to find some answers for a position that still has plenty of question marks… and short on depth of talent.
Giants Linebacker Preview
LB, University of Miami
If you have not heard of Spencer Adkins it’s probably because he has only played in 24 games since being drafted in 2009, and none since the 2011 season. Barring a series of injuries during training camp and preseason, do not expect Adkins to play a large role. In fact, he’s unlikely to survive the summer months.
LB, University of Louisiana at Lafayette
Justin Anderson was signed as an undrafted free agent in May. He accumulated 131 tackles in his last year as an undersized, speedy backer for the Rajun Cajuns. While Anderson is also not expected to be a standout, he will be looking to impress the coaching staff with his unique athleticism at the second level. Will he have what it takes to crack the practice squad?
LB, University of Miami
Jon Beason was supposed to be the Giants’ defensive leader this in 2014, but the injury bug has threatened that. Beason, who fractured his foot during OTA’s, will not be available
for the start of training camp. If forced to begin the regular season on the PUP, he’ll miss six weeks. That appears a highly unlikely scenario, however, as Beason is already leading the charge in the weight room.
LB, University of Notre Dame
Dan Fox is another undrafted free agent signing. He registered 95 tackles and two interceptions in his final season at Notre Dame. According to NJ.com
Fox will be competing for a spot at weakside linebacker position. As it is with the other rookies, his performance during training camp and preseason will ultimately determine his future with the team.
LB, Boston College
Mark Herzlich was originally signed as an undrafted rookie free agent by the Giants in July 2011 after making a return from bone cancer in 2010. The G-Men were hoping to see similar flashes of dominance that led to him winning the ACC Defensive Player of the Year in 2008, but that has yet to happen. While Herzlich has been a sparkplug at times on special teams, he has struggled on defense, especially when needing to drop back in passing situations. With no real standouts at linebacker and with Beason’s injury, this could be a crucial offseason for determining his future role with the team.
LB, University of Southern California
Devon Kennard was drafted by Big Blue in the 5th round of this year’s draft out of USC. Kennard served as a defensive end earlier in his college career, but his versatility led to a transition to linebacker. He’s strong, intelligent and comes from an old school football background. Kennard is currently listed as the first team strong side linebacker on the initial depth chart.
LB, North Carolina State University
Terrell Manning isn’t one of your household names either. After being drafted by Green Bay in 2012, he played five games for the Packers that season. Manning was subsequently released the next year and signed by the Chargers with whom he played just one game. With such a small sample size during his NFL career it will be hard to imagine Manning having a huge impact going forward. He’s another undersized, hybrid option who drew praise during the combine process for getting after the QB.
LB, Syracuse University
The signing of Jameel McClain was a fairly low-key acquisition during the off-season for the Giants. But with Jon Beason’s injury and the lack of overall depth for Big Blue, the signing became substantially more relevant. McClain was then carted off the field two days ago with a foot injury making the situation at linebacker a bit more complicated. Albeit, his X-Rays were negative and he’s back on the field for drills.
Spencer Paysinger is heading into his fourth season with the Giants and this will undoubtedly be his most important season yet. He has the opportunity to step up and take a larger role among the group of linebackers. He will be competing for the strongside/weakside linebacking position with Kennard and Herzlich.
LB, South Florida
Jacquian Williams was originally drafted in the sixth round by the Giants in the 2011 draft so, like Paysinger, he will be entering his fourth year with Big Blue. He played in all 16 games last year with the G-Men, and started in eight of them. He is expected to be at top of the depth chart at weakside linebacker as of right now. Behind advanced coverage skills, he’s one of the Giants more reliable three-down options.
Giants LB Final Thoughts
After the solidification of the secondary this off-season, and with the hopeful improved performance of their defensive front, the linebackers appear to be the biggest point of interest for the Giants — as always seems to be the case. And of course, the overall success of the D will be dependent on the effectiveness of the LB corps. As a team that offers LB legends such as: Lawrence Taylor, Harry Carson, Carl Banks, Jessie Armstead, Sam Huff, Pepper Johnson, Brian Kelley, Antonio Pierce, Gary Reasons, and Brad Van Pelt (Remember number 10) among others; who on this list can compare?
Will one LB emerge from the fray to add to the legacy that is GIANT LINEBACKER, or will this group of young men fail to impress. No matter the answer, Giants Football is back.