It’s no secret that the New York Giants have had little success in recent years in building a top tier group of linebackers. Long gone are the days of the legendary players of the 1980s and early 1990s like Lawrence Taylor, Harry Carson, Carl Banks, Gary Reasons and Pepper Johnson. Sure there have been bright spots over the years like Jesse Armstead (1993-2001), Micheal Barrow (2000-2003), and Super Bowl XLII champion Antonio Pierce (2005-2009), but Big Blue has struggled to put together a solid group of linebackers that can strike fear into opposing offenses like the good old days.
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This season, however, there is potential for the Giants to have that linebacking corps that can control of games and stifle opposing offenses with both speed and power. second year outside linebacker Devon Kennard came out of nowhere last season because of his pass rushing and run stuffing abilities, and is looking to build on his solid 2014 campaign and develop into a consistent playmaker.
Sep 8, 2014; Detroit, MI, USA; New York Giants outside linebacker Jon Beason (52) against the Detroit Lions at Ford Field. Mandatory Credit: Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports
Middle linebacker Jon Beason is still capable of playing at a Pro Bowl level if he can find a way to stay healthy. He is a powerhouse who may not be the quickest linebacker, but he makes up for it with his high football IQ that every team looks for at the middle linebacking position. Fellow veteran outside linebacker Jameel McClain brings leadership and versatility to go along with his solid playmaking abilities. McClain often filled in for the injured Beason at middle linebacker but normally plays one of the outside positions.
Linebackers Mark Herzlich and free agent acquisition Johnathan Casillas are both tough, hard working players who provide great depth and will help out a lot on special teams. A player to look out for is another free agent signing in former Jacksonville Jaguars linebacker J.T. Thomas. Thomas is only 26 years old and is capable of playing all three linebacking positions because of his great size and speed.
Thomas finished 2014 with 84 total tackles, two interceptions and two forced fumbles. He can be a great asset as the team’s weak side linebacker for his coverage ability and nose for the football. Overall this group isn’t going to wow anyone on paper right now, but the talent is there which means the potential for this group to be successful is also there.
This group will be highly motivated to prove the experts wrong and make a name for themselves in 2015 and beyond. In Steve Spagnuolo’s defense, linebackers play much more of an aggressive role which is a departure for the often relaxed scheme that was previously instituted. This allow this group to play to their skill sets and become playmakers instead of falling back and letting plays develop in front of them.
It is time that the Giants revive the Big Blue Wrecking Crew label that had defined their style of play defensively for decades. This group has the talent to become the cornerstone of this Giants defense and usher in a new era of Giants linebackers, but only time will tell if those hopes ever materialize on Sundays.