New York Giants Linebackers
By Joe Tufaro
With a rich tradition of linebackers in their history, the New York Giants have been lacking any star power at the position for a while now. We can all recite the names: Huff, Taylor, Carson, Van Pelt, Kelly, Reasons, Hunt, Headen, and Armstead. Antonio Pierce was the closest this team has come in some time to having a real “Name” at the position. The NFL linebacker has changed though in the new pass happy NFL. Finding guys that can stuff the run, and cover some of the Tight Ends and Running Backs this league has is a tough chore, and requires a multitude of situational players. The Linebacker now must be extremely athletic and quick on his feet. Of course it is my belief that a good defensive line makes good linebackers look even better.
Chase Blackburn was the last man cut in camp, and wound up being a key figure in the run to the Championship. Chase is intelligent, a leader, and more athletic than he appears. Chase is a natural at the position. He has been re-signed and is the leader at MLB going into camp.
Michael Boley was a free agent signing before the 2009 season. He really stepped up this season and contributed in many ways. He became a leader on defense this year, and should thrive even more in this system once they move him back to his natural outside position.
Mark Herzlich is the young man from Boston College recovering from cancer. He has made great strides in returning to his old form. Mark will be given the chance to compete on camp for the middle position as well.
Greg Jones is another young man the Giants need to see for an entire camp. He is a tough, but smallish linebacker, and might struggle to find the right fit here.
Mathias Kiwanuka is a Linebacker, Defensive End that has a ton of talent and natural ability. Kiwi had an untimely injury a few years back, and now seems out of place. He is a very intelligent young man, and very athletic, I hope they can find a way to maximize his usefullness.
Spencer Paysinger will benefit from a full off season program, like most of the young players drafted last year.
Adrian Tracy played a few snaps this year, and will return to the practice squad this season.
Jacquian Williams had the most impact of the young linebackers brought to this team last year. He is fast, smart, athletic and best of all young.
The biggest acquisition of course was Keith Rivers. He will hopefully return to form as a Giant after suffering a broken wrist in Cincinnati. I picture a Boley-Blackburn-Rivers base group to start camp.
Also brought in for a look are Jake Mausau, a rookie from Georgia State. He will need to show he can contribute along with 5th year man Clint Sintim. This might be Sintim’s last chance to win a job on the Giants. With the youth and pure numbers in place, linebacker and special teams should be another great competition in camp this year.
The Giants drafted many linebackers last year simply for their athleticism. This group was the core of the Special Teams last year, a unit that improved as the year progressed. They will all benefit from a full off season of conditioning and training. The linebacking corp must have depth, athleticism, and Perry Fewell will employ many variations depending on down and distance.