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Can Dan Connor Be the Man in the Middle for the New York Giants?

May 6th, 2013 at 6:30 AM
By Doug Rush

Although the New York Giants' linebacker search may continue beyond this week, they've added another name to the mix today, signing linebacker Dan Connor to a one-year deal.

Depth at linebacker for the New York Giants has been a widely discussed topic in recent weeks and months. Currently, Big Blue has Dan Connor, Mark Herzlich and Jake Muasau under contract and the team did not look to address the position last week in the NFL Draft. So, in early May, just a month before the team reports for mandatory mini-camp, the team's starting middle linebacker by default is Connor, who was brought in by the Giants in March on a one-year deal.

In the five years that Connor has been a pro, he's already been through two teams, having played for the Carolina Panthers and most recently, the Dallas Cowboys in 2012.

Connor originally served as a backup to Sean Lee, but ended up stepping in as the starter due to Lee landing on Injured Reserve (IR). The former Penn State graduate started in eight games for Dallas and made 57 total tackles, 29 of them solo. But his best season as a pro came in 2011 with the Panthers, where he started in 11 of the 15 games he played and made 73 total tackles, 52 of them solo, and a forced fumble.

Can Connor be the every-down linebacker for the Giants going forward into the season? Right now, it's very hard to tell.

His scouting report does detail that he's a very strong tackler; however, he's not a play-making tackler who can chase down opponents if needed, which can raise a cause of concern in the NFC East. Connor's appears best suited for when the ball carrier is headed into his lane and squared up with him, in which, he makes the tackle. It's when he has to range to his left or right that he tends gets caught and doesn't make the play. However, he does play the pass well, which is something the Giants as a whole struggled with last season.

Connor doesn't rush the quarterback well, but then again, the Giants never really look to a middle linebacker to be a pass rusher, as neither Chase Blackburn nor Antonio Pierce were used in that role either.

In the past, there's been talk about the possibility of the Giants potentially adding a linebacker like Karlos Dansby, Brian Urlacher or Daryl Smith if their price tag's came down in free agency. Ever since free agency started in the NFL, all three names have been linked to the Giants at point point.

Shortly after the draft, Giants head coach Tom Coughlin even said that he doesn't expect the current roster to be as-is and feels that there will be other looks when camp starts.

"I'm sure there'll be other looks at what's available [on market at LB before camp begins]," Coughlin said.

Dansby's name has been brought up the most, especially since he was linked to the Giants dating back to 2010 before he got signed by the Miami Dolphins, but was released due to salary cap reasons. But some fans feel that the Giants don't put much emphasis on the middle linebacker position and try to get by with what they have, a theory the Giants have been using ever since Pierce retired before 2010.

Despite winning a championship with Blackburn as their starting middle linebacker in 2011, they only got so much ability-wise from him, which is why they only offered him a one-year deal in free agency and eventually, let him leave to the Carolina Panthers.

Blackburn and Connor have a lot of physical similarities with the exception of Connor being a stronger tackler, but is that going to be enough to help fix a defense that ranked number 31 in the league a season ago?

There are other areas of the Giants defense that has to improve from that ranking, but the linebacker unit as a whole at times were downright awful, which is why fans and experts continue to focus on the position. But for now, Connor is the guy in the middle and will look to keep the job from Herzlich, but don't be shocked to see General Manager Jerry Reese looking at other options on the market as the season gets closer, especially if the price tag heavily drops to where signing help makes absolutely sense.

Also…

Tags: Brian Urlacher, Chase Blackburn, Dan Connor, Daryl Smith, Football, Karlos Dansby, New York, New York Giants, NFL

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3 Responses to “Can Dan Connor Be the Man in the Middle for the New York Giants?”

  1.  Dan Peterson says:

    Connor is going to have every opportunity to play great football. He’s got his ‘prove it’ contract and a solid set of DTs in front of him now, not to mention a hungry backup and an offense that generally should be in good position.

  2.  giankees says:

    II think rivers should be at mlb and williams and kiwi at olb. I think the way the line is built right now that the guys up frint wil be able to tie up the opponents ol and that we need a speedy lb crew. Rivers gives us ghat type of gut that can attack the lune and fast enought to cover over the middle. We can use conner in the 3 safety package that fewell likes which gave us a boost in 2011. Or we can puck up someone else to split that duty with conner and leave rivers on the outside. Of course counting on rivers to stay healhy all year long is not something I want to do either

  3.  Joseph Bulger says:

    I think the Giants value top tier LBs a lot, but the NFL’s processes and rules including CAPs are designed to drive every team to 8-8. So every team has value decisions to make that aren’t absolute, but instead are relative… the value LBs as compared to the value of DTs, DEs, CBs, Safeties. I’m sensing that to win the NFC East today, as the offenses have evolved, the LBs don’t compare favorably with the other positions. So most recently the Giants will pick up LBs as UFAs and sign on veteran FA experience to minimum dollar one year contracts, year after year. They’ll take a Connor for a Blackburn, and go with guys who some fans have described as little more than “glorified special teamers” so they can place more emphasis on the DTs, DEs, and secondary. Other teams in other divisions apparently have different relative value priorities. We’ll see the LBs perform better in 2013 to some degree because the starting plus backup depth DTs are better, and if the front 7 can stop the run, the back 4 can pay more attention to adequate coverage. I think JR gave Fewell the pieces to do much better than bottom of the league, and if he doesn’t, then he’ll be moving on.

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