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New York Giants Continue to Lack Answers for Their Problems at Linebacker

September 19th, 2013 at 7:00 AM
By Billy Javed

It's no secret that linebacker Mark Herzlich, at one point or another, was a fan favorite amongst most New York Giants faithful. Herzlich’s story of perseverance and triumph has all the makings of a feel good Hollywood flick that would somehow star Matt Damon in one way or another. Unfortunately for Herzlich, sometimes the only story that counts in the NFL is a numerical one called the stat sheet.

Through two games, Herzlich has recorded a less than pedestrian 8 solo tackles, 2 assisted, and a steady dose of 0’s in every other statistical category. In 16 games last year, Herzlich had only 22 solo tackles, 8 assisted, and once again 0’s in all other statistical categories. Some could argue that the 0’s are insignificant if Herzlich was making all the right plays and tackles (which he hasn’t exactly been doing), but it is also an indication that he is often not around the ball or is late getting to the ball in situations where plays can be made, which is especially concerning considering he is situated right in the middle of the field.

Although numbers can be deceiving, in the case of Herzlich, they seem to coincide with the game tape where Herzlich is often seen slow to the hole, having a tough time getting off blocks, and lacking athleticism and strength to stop both the run and cover the pass. The lack of aggression and leadership from the middle linebacker position has hurt the Giants defense thus far. Not exactly the type of production Jerry Reese & Co. had anticipated from Herzlich as he was expected to be the starter coming into the season, setting up Dan Connor to be a solid backup or rotational linebacker.

Though there is nothing wrong with the initial error in player assessment, the larger error would however, lie in not making the proper adjustments once Herzlich’s play has made it clear that he is not currently, nor may ever be, ready to be a starting middle linebacker in this league. Herzlich has been spoon-fed numerous opportunities to seize the starting linebacker position, as many had hoped that in his third year he would be capable of living up to his glorified playing days at Boston College. Unfortunately, all Herzlich has shown has been his ability to lose the starting job to the likes of Chase Blackburn last year and Dan Connor this year.

The Giants are very well aware, and have made it abundantly clear, that this team expects to not only perform at a high level, but also eventually be the first team to host the Super Bowl in their home stadium. With a mentality like that one would assume the Giants' management will aim to rectify the situation sooner rather than later. All signs seem to suggest they are aware of their problem at the middle linebacker position as they have recently brought in former Seahawks linebacker Allen Bradford and worked out another former Seattle linebacker in Leroy Hill, as well as former Giant Jonathan Goff.

Bradford, a former running back who led the Seahawks in tackles throughout the preseason, will likely only see time at the middle linebacker position if the situation gets desperate. Goff, who is coming off two torn ACL’s, would have been just another question mark at the position. Then there’s also another former Giant in Michael Boley, who the team has shown no interest in rekindling ties with. Another potential name of interest could be former Rams linebacker Jo-Lonn Dunbar, who is currently serving a four game suspension for violating the league’s performance enhancing drug policy. Dunbar totaled 112 tackles, 4.5 sacks, and two interceptions last season. Free Agency could be one potential answer to the Giants’ middle linebacker problem.

Another possible solution could be what the Giants often do in such situations, and that is look for an in house answer. Regarding the current dilemma one would assume a shuffling of the linebacker corps in which either Keith Rivers or Spencer Paysinger is moved to the middle, while the other plays on the outside with Jacquian Williams. Fortunately the depth is still thin and that alone could force Reese’s hand into a decent acquisition.

There is however, another potential solution the Giants can consider; one that was highlighted by the Colts’ recent trade acquisition Trent Richardson. The Colts running back situation became comparable to that of the Giants' linebacker circumstance in that they too lost a starter for the year, and although Bradshaw is far more skilled at his position than Herzlich is at his, due to chronic injury concerns he is no more reliable for an entire season. Thus with the “win now” attitude the Giants often boast, the Colts made a blockbuster deal to drastically solve their conundrum.

Now sure, it is highly doubtful that the Giants offer any team more than a 5th round pick at best for a linebacker, but that does not mean talent is not available for such late round picks. Former 49ers linebacker Parys Haralson was acquired earlier this season by the Saints for a 7th round pick. Even arguably the current best linebacker on the team, Keith Rivers, was acquired via trade for only a 5th round pick. At the very least the Giants can shop around a 7th round pick and see if anyone bites. Worst case scenario maybe get depth by bringing Kyle Bosworth back as he showed flashes of skill in the preseason and is already acclimated to the playbook. Even Chase Blackburn (currently not the starter in Carolina) at this point would be an upgrade that is feasible for a 7th round pick.

Some may argue to keep the late draft pick in the hopes of finding the next Ahmad Bradshaw; however, it should be noted that acquiring late picks nowadays doesn’t seem to difficult. If the Giants did lose the pick and found someone they wanted they could always trade back into the draft for future picks. There is clearly no shortage of options for the Giants’ management and coaching staff. Their solutions lie in their willingness to concede that a change must be made and their creativity from there on out.

Photo credit: BigBlueCowboy via photobucket cc

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Tags: Allen Bradford, Chase Blackburn, Dan Connor, Football, Jacquian Williams, Jerry Reese, Jonathan Goff, Keith Rivers, Leroy Hill, Mark Herzlich, Michael Boley, New York, New York Giants, NFL, Spencer Paysinger

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10 Responses to “New York Giants Continue to Lack Answers for Their Problems at Linebacker”

  1.  JimStoll says:

    it looks like the giants are stuck at LB for this season
    anything on the street would likely only be marginally better than Herz
    at some point JR will have to invest through the draft if he truly cares about upgrading that position, which, after 7 drafts looks questionable

  2.  Krow says:

    Past history convinces me that LB is a position that will be addressed in the off-season via free agency … possibly augmented by another mid-round JAG.

  3.  Nosh.0 says:

    I know I’m late, but what a great trade for the Browns.

    RB’s are a luxury in the NFL. They just are. A running game is a necessity, but an RB is a luxury. Browns know they’re going no where without a QB, and while you can find one in later rounds, your best bet is getting one at the top of the draft. 2 first round picks makes that a real possibility.

    On the Colts side, I do not believe Running Backs not named Adrian Peterson are worth a first round pick. So I think they take a loss on this deal.

    •  fanfor55years says:

      You may notice I said it was a great deal for the Browns. But I think the Colts knew what they were doing. They see that the AFC is weak, with the Patriots fading, the Steelers dead, and the Ravens vulnerable. They probably think they can “accelerate” their progress behind a great young QB and challenge for the AFC Championship THIS season (I think they were shooting for 2014-2015) if they can keep balanced on offense. And given an y decent blocking Richardson will be a very good running back for years to come. It’s a risk, but one probably worth taking, even though I agree that they probably “overpaid”. The bugaboo of “never overpaying” is a stupid fear, one that I think the Giants take to extremes. Any businessman knows that sometimes you have to stretch beyond “fair value” to get something that might have an enormous payoff down the road. You sometimes fail as a result. But willingness to take that chance can pay enormous dividends.

      If Jerry Reese has a fault that is obvious, it’s that he always wants “great value”. Guess what? Eli Manning wasn’t “great value” by his definition. I agree with whomever wrote the other day that Reese would NOT have done what Accorsi did. Thank you Ernie.

  4.  giantsou812 says:

    A simple solution.
    Get an offensive line that can run the clock out.
    Booth has to go Snee is not far behind.

  5.  skinnydoogan says:

    Ok I will be the one to say it, Herz is a bum. I love the story just like the next guy, but a story does not help us at the linebacker position. Last real linebacker we had was Jessie Armstead, who by the way still looks like he can suit up and play. How long do we have to suffer through this? 99% of the other teams don’t care about feel good stories, why do we? I want a nasty, mean, aggressive SOB at the MLB position, remember, there was a day when our back-ups were even feared. We have been getting abused at this position for years, everyone in the NFL knows it is our weakness, yet we just keep doing the same thing. Classic definition of insanity, someone here mentioned it yesterday…..

  6.  skinnydoogan says:

    I am pretty sure when they timed Herz in the 40 they used a sun dial.

  7.  Andiamo P says:

    Herz played 25 snaps vs. Denver. Why is he being singled out?

    Paysinger and J. Williams have exceeded expectations but instead of Reese getting credit for finding those guys, Giants fans under rate them, they ignore Fewell’s every changing crap scheme, and refuse to acknowledge that the Giants Offense just turned the ball over another 5 times and had a half dozen 3 and outs.

    This defense has it’s issues….most of them stem from the coach. But right now is not the time to be overly concerned. Last year? sure. So far this year? nope.

    •  G-menfan4lyfe says:

      Andiamo I agree with you 100%. Yeah the stats say our Defense is giving up a ton of points, but it’s been caused by the offense faltering and giving the other team the ball on our side of the field.

      Herzlich is being unfairly criticized here. Sure he’s not the greatest LB ever but he isn’t to blame for our situation. Fewell’s read and react scheme is terrible, his soft zones are terrible, and opponents always having a short field is the worst thing we are doing.

      Look at T2 last game. He blanketed Welker and limited him for the most part. WHy don’t we play more bump and run press cover man? That’s what our CBs are good at. But no, Fewell installs this BS scheme and it gives teams all the short throws over the middle they want.

      And don’t blame Herzlich for the Moreno TDs. On the first one, he wasn’t even on the field, and on the second Rivers, who isn’t even close to being the best LB on this team, didn’t seal the edge. Rivers is pretty much a bum too.

      We should have moved up in the 2nd round to grab Minter or Bostic, or we could have taken Arthur Brown with our pick. Or we could have signed Karlos Dansby instead of glass man Dan Connor. But when it comes to LB’s it seems like JR is allergic to making the right decision. Kind of like how we could have had Burfict for a 7th round pick. Terrible.

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