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New York Giants Must Find Solution at Middle Linebacker This Offseason

January 16th, 2013 at 8:30 AM
By Casey Sherman

The New York Giants defense faces a major question mark at the middle linebacker position that must be addressed before the start of next season. Starter Chase Blackburn is an unrestricted  free agent this offseason, and General Manager Jerry Reese must decide whether to resign him or look at other options for a middle linebacker whether it comes from a player already on their roster, free agency or the draft.

Despite being touted as on of the teams' deepest units, last season's linebacker squad anchored a Giants defense that ranked 31st allowing 6,134 yards. The defense also ranked 28th in the passing game (254.3 yards per game), and 25th against the run (129.1 yards per game). The team may suffer the same results again unless some type of upgrade is made.

Blackburn, who will be 30-years-old before the start of next season, was the starter in 23 of the last 25 games. Though Blackburn gave the Giants some consistency at the position with 98 tackles, it didn't seem he was able to make the key play when the team needed it like he was able to the season before. The player with most experience after him on the Giants roster is undrafted free agent Mark Herzlich. The Giants made it clear he was being groomed to be their future at linebacker, but in his limited opportunities, Herzlich's performance left something to be desired.

The Giants have several other youngsters who they could fill in at middle linebacker in Jacquian Williams and Spencer Paysinger. Williams, a second-year player drafted out of South Florida by the Giants, showed promise at times but battled injuries all season. The Giants also sent a fifth-round pick to the Cincinnati Bengals for Keith Rivers who also has issues staying healthy. The other option currently on the roster is Michael Boley, who saw his playing time inexplicably diminish.

To improve the linebacker squad, Jerry Reese will likely look to free agency or the draft to find his middle linebacker of the future. Here's a look at some of his options.

Reese could go out and look at high profile free agents such as future Hall of Famer Brian Urlacher, Jacksonville's Daryl Smith, or Minnesota's E.J. Henderson, though these players don't help the team get younger. More realistic candidates will be Minnesota's Jasper Brinkley or Baltimore's Dannell Ellerbe.

What appears to be the most likely option to find a long-term solution at middle linebacker is to do what Reese does best…find a player in the NFL Draft. Of course, the big name that most Giants fans drool over is Heisman runner up Manti Te'o, though he will likely be selected by the Giants' 19th pick. However, this draft class has several other talented linebackers to offer that are expected to be available through the first and second rounds. Georgia's Alec Ogletree and LSU's Kevin Minter are both high profile prospects that Reese could pull the trigger on. Though Reese typically waits till the middle of the draft to find a linebacker or two, that philosophy could change this year.

The Giants franchise once prided itself on exceptional linebacker play, boasting some of the greatest linebackers to ever play the game in Lawrence Taylor, Harry Carson and Carl Banks. The Giants owe it to the fans to find a leader to carry its defensive in the fashion these players once did.


Tags: Chase Blackburn, Football, Jerry Reese, Keith Rivers, Mark Herzlich, Michael Boley, New York, New York Giants, NFL, Spencer Paysinger

19 Responses to “New York Giants Must Find Solution at Middle Linebacker This Offseason”

  1.  James Stoll says:

    For us oL’d timers the Giants LB woes are particularly hard to endure. Between the mid 1950s and 2000 the Giants always boasted at least on great LB and often terrific LB units. But for the past dozen years they have had nothing but JAGs. Reese has tried once in FA and once in the draft to significantly upgrade bit that is it. It doesn’t seem like he really values the position

    •  G-MenFan says:

      Antonio Pierce was an excellent MLB and defensive captain. He was a great free agent signing and we got a SB out of it. Michael Boley was also an excellent signing for the Will, and although his play declined, he was outstanding prior to 2012 and we got a 2nd SB.

      I think JR takes a really good balanced approach to building and fortifying the roster to get the maximum out of it. I too remember the good old days of killer LBs in Giants blue but in reality, right now, you’d have to pull four guys off of different teams to make a Carson, Taylor, Banks, Pepper Johnson-type unit.

      We need Jaquain Williams to step up in 2013 at the Sam (or Will if we cut Boley) and we need Herlzich or Rivers at the other outside spot. I don’t think we have the answer in the middle on the roster at this point. I’m looking for either a FA signing or Chase Blackburn III.

      •  kujo says:

        The only thing Antonio Pierce was excellent at was winning the annual Wings n’ Cuervo consumption contest held in Hoboken.

        •  JimStoll says:

          G-Men, respectfully, I disagree.
          Both were “good” signings relative to what we had on the roster at the time and both played well from time to time
          but neither was ever more than a JAG

          •  G-MenFan says:

            Well then we’ll disagree.
            I think you’re remembering Pierce when he declined in 2008 and 2009. He was bad.
            But the first three years he was very good. He broke down tons of film and positioned the entire defense. The play he made in the NFC Championship game against Green Bay, recognizing the screen, fighting through a double-team and making an open-field solo tackle was one of the best plays I’ve ever seen a linebacker make in a big spot.
            As far as Boley goes, all you have to do is check the Giants W-L record in games he missed to appreciate him. If you think he’s been a JAG, again we’ll disagree. He just sucked last year.

        •  G-MenFan says:

          Doesn’t look like he’s eating wings here.

          •  kujo says:

            The guy played for, what, like 8 or 9 years? He makes one great tackle.

          •  demo3356 says:

            Antonio Pierce was a STUD for us in 05 and 06 and was very solid in 07. He fell apart in 08 but lets not rewrite history folks. Guy was a key player for us for 3 years

  2.  kujo says:

    FWIW I recently asked Pat Traina whether it was more likely that we would see a new face starting at MLB or OL this offseason, and her response was “both.”

    •  demo3356 says:

      We Will see both for sure. No doubt in my mind that we have a new starting RT next year. I think Herzlich could get a crack at MLB or SAM as well. I think Kiwi goes back to the line to replace Osi. Very interested to see how this off season shakes out

  3.  Levito says:

    I think OL is more important than LB. A beast LB would make a huge impact on the defense, for sure, but the OL really troubles me. Assuming Beatty comes back, he’s the only one on the OL I trust at this point. Maybe Snee comes back and plays well again, maybe Baas shows that he was actually worth signing. But really the O line troubles me more than anything. Defensively, if the D line played better, and Fewell had a clue how to play to his players strengths, this defense would be 10x better.

  4.  Krow says:

    LB … OL … DT … DE … CB.

    All 5 areas need help. And not just depth.

    I think we’re in for a bloodbath. Cuts and restructures are going to be flying hot and heavy … so will some signings … our guys and free agents. It’s shaping up as a cap-induced massacre.

    2013 NYG will look a lot different than this years version.

  5.  fanfor55years says:

    Well, I’ll say again, the cap situation (by the way, De Smith got badly played in those negotiations…how he signed on to this bad cap deal for a decade is beyond me because as those revenues jump through the roof over the next few years there’s no way the players shouldn’t be getting a bigger portion of the pie) may well mean that 2013 is a “transition” year for this team.

    I feel very much like I did going into 2007. The team has some very good players and a tremendous core of them to build around, including a number of young players about whom I feel pretty good. But it looks like they need two good drafts (and a few shrewd moves in free agency) to get to the Promised Land. If they can make the playoffs (and I think they can if they retain Bennett, Cruz doesn’t sulk over contract issues, and Nicks is fully healthy) it’s always possible they make a run. But if I’m Reese I am looking to get much younger and more explosive, will make sure that the coaching staff signs on to playing rookies as much as possible in 2013, and will allow some valuable veterans to leave. I don’t think we’ll be playing a year from February in MetLife but I think that the team could have a pretty decent shot at getting to the next Super Bowl after that. That’s what I’d build toward now.

  6.  fanfor55years says:

    The starter at MLBer in 2013 should not be anyone who was on the roster in 2012.

    Blackburn is a solid journeyman playing a position that requires more if you’re to stop the new offenses in this league.

    Herzlich looked pretty good against the Eagles in Week 17, but that was the Eagles and he appears to be a slightly better version of Blackburn without the experience, meaning Blackburn could still beat him out in 2013 based on his tremendous football intelligence.

    Williams, Rivers, Paysinger and Boley are too light to play MIKE. You cannot be a run-stopper on a consistent basis at their weights.

    I’m serious when I say that Muasau may be the biggest hope on the team now, but I have to believe that they are going to draft someone for that spot in April and quite possibly also sign a free agent. They simply HAVE to improve up the middle of the defense or all the other factors they play with won’t matter. They need to be a lot better at defensive tackle, middle linebacker, and scheme, or we will continue to see teams put this defense on its heels.

  7.  demo3356 says:

    I’m not sure DE is such an area of need. Pretty sure with Osi leaving Kiwi goes back to DE and we do have some depth there depending on what happens with Tuck..
    JPP, Kiwi, Tuck? Ojomo, Tracey, Tratou, Broha..
    We have MUCH bigger areas of need.. OT, TE, CB, LB, RB?

  8.  sonnymooks says:

    Hey, I love Reese, I do, and have alot of faith in him, but to be honest, his one weakness, seems to be in drafting linebackers (though to be fair, it may be that the Giants scouts are not good at evaluating them).

    In other words, for us to get a good LB in the draft, its going to have to be a high draft pick, and even then, more along the lines of a low risk guy, I’m sorry, I really am, but we are not good at picking linebackers anymore.

    That said, personally, I’d prefer to draft a pass rushing DE or DT in the first, a DB in the second and a LB in the 3rd, in fact, since our defense has now allowed over 6,000 yards TWO years in a row, and this years defense statistically ranks among the worst in team history (and since we are keeping the d-coordinator), we need a big infusion of defensive talent, at all 3 levels.

    I don’t mean just depth either, I mean we need to seriously upgrade our defense, with young (and hopefully healthy) blood. We need more speed AND we need more size, we need HITTERS that are burners.

    I know we need OL help, we do, its true, and since we draft those guys in later rounds and then develop them in house, I actually hope we continue that practise this year, instead of spending an early pick on a OL, spend it on defense, go heavy on the D. Back of the draft, end rounds, then go for a lineman, look for value there, and develop but we need immediate infusion of talent on Defense, and we need Linebackers (and have needed them for some time).

    It takes time to develop guys, I also get that, but I think we can get contributions from our drafted defensive guys faster then we can from OL guys. Note, we also drafted 2 offensive lineman last year, and a TE last year (and we have the best TE coach in football), lets see how our development is working with them.

  9.  CT GIANT says:

    Much like DEMO’s comments, we have some young and very good prospects at DE, yet we don’t get to see them get some snaps, that’s the only way players get to show the coaches they “got it”.
    Coughlin really needs to play these younger guys, and if you read between the lines, Reese is saying “play them”, Coughlin says “I’m the coach”.
    If OT isn’t a need, we should draft a QB at #19!
    Hey, it’s time, 1999 is way to long, even if Beatty stays and does a great job, the line needs young and depth.
    The other obvious need is MLB, and if we can we go to FA’s, as that is player that will play, under Coughlin, unless he does some serious personal changes.
    CB is a FA area as well, and Webster may have seen his last game, as he and KP, get cut loose.

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