After releasing weakside linebacker Michael Boley as a casualty of limited salary cap room, the New York Giants must find a new starting WILL linebacker in 2013. With Jacquian Williams and Spencer Paysinger currently on the roster, Big Blue certainly has candidates to replace Boley from within. However, with the deep class of linebackers that have declared for the 2013 NFL Draft, the Giants could look to add depth to their linebacker corp. in April. Rutgers linebacker Khaseem Greene, who is a two-time Big East Defensive Player of the Year, fits the mold of a prototypical modern day NFL linebacker.
In today's high-octane, pass heavy NFL, smaller linebackers capable of covering backs and tight ends down the field have become a valuable commodity. With each of the Giants' NFC foes possessing a quarterback with at least some measure of mobility, having speed at linebacker is crucial to putting forth a successful defensive effort. Greene, who stands 6'1" and weighs 241 pounds, projects to be the kind of player who can utilize his speed and athleticism to contain versatile offensive schemes.
Today, Giants 101 caught up with Greene as he prepares for his Pro Day tomorrow at Rutgers University. He says that, above all, his football instincts and natural ability will be his greatest asset in transitioning to the NFL.
"I think I cover very well out of the backfield," Greene said. "I cover tight ends, slot receivers and I think I do a great job of staying in front of people and just denying my man the ball. I also think I'm really fast and I'm quick when it comes to reading and going to attack. Some of the things I do well you don't have to teach me."
Greene came to Rutgers in 2008 after playing high school football for Elizabeth High School in Elizabeth, NJ. In 2009, he played in all 13 of Rutgers' games and garnered 33 tackles and two interceptions. He improved upon those statistics as a full time starter at free safety in 2010 and was moved to linebacker in 2011, when he was named Big East Co-Defensive Player of the year.
In the 2011 Pinstripe Bowl against Iowa State, Greene suffered a broken ankle that sidelined him for the remainder of the game and required offseason surgery. Although there was concern about his health coming into Rutgers' 2012 campaign, Greene showed no signs of any lingering effects from injury and went on to become just the first player since 1999 to repeat as Big East Defensive Player of the Year. Greene says that although he has had success in the college game, he still has a lot to work on between now and when he gets into training camp.
"I'm still getting a feel for the linemen and their speed and the certain things that they do well," Greene said. "It's just like college in that I have to study a lot of film and pick up some tendencies to see what I can do to see if I can be the guy on a specific play. I want to do the little things that don't show up all the time."
The Giants have several needs they must fill in the 2013 draft and WILL linebacker may not be too high on the list. The team still has no viable option to take over at middle linebacker, no starting tight end and several holes on the offensive line. With that said, general manager Jerry Reese is in no position to turn down a player that can help contain the likes of Robert Griffin III, Colin Kaepernick and Russell Wilson for the foreseeable future.
If Greene is still on the board when the Giants pick in the second round, Jerry Reese may strongly consider selecting him to bolster a linebacker corp. that is lacking speed and athleticism. However, if Greene has it his way, he'll come off the board well before the Giants get a chance to take him with their second selection of the draft.
"Honestly, my expectations are very high," Greene said. "I expect to go on the first day and in the first round. Whether it be late or mid, I think I'm a first-round caliber player. But at the same time, wherever I go, all I need is the opportunity to get into somebody's camp an show them I can play football."
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