NEW YORK – The Giants linebacker group needs an upgrade. This is something that is a long time coming and something I expect the team will address in this years NFL draft in April. I mean no disrespect to the current Giants linebackers and I think they did a good job in 2010 but the team needs an all pro linebacker to compliment the rest of the defense. New York loves it’s linebackers and fans have stopped being polite and started demanding a top caliber linebacker for the team.
The problem I see with assessing the Giants linebackers are all of the question marks. It would be easy to make the hard choices if GM Jerry Reese and Coach Coughlin had seen all of them perform on the field but that is not the case. Some of these guys have had real game time experience and some of them haven’t. The injury bug hit the LB group just as hard as the rest of the team in 2010. Couple that with having one of the youngest LB corps in the NFL and you can see where I’m going with this. If the Giants can shore up the linebacker position by the start of this season, then the Giants defense is going to be a top 3 defense in the NFL.
Although the expectations may be somewhat unrealistic, the fans still want what they want. I would not be surprised if the Giants brought in a young and proven free agent LB before the season starts. The DE’s are solid and the safety position is squared away. You can be sure the LB’s and DT’s will be thoroughly addressed this off season. Another idea that is picking up steam is the Giants getting another stud CB as well.
Let’s take a look at the Giants linebackers as of today 2-21-11.
1. Jonathan Goff, 6’2″ 236 pounds – Goff was given the opportunity to replace all pro LB Antonio Pierce when he retired after the 2009 season. Goff did a good job at the middle linebacker spot but he wasn’t spectacular. He finished as the second best tackler among LB’s in 2010 behind only Michael Boley. I’m not sure if he will be the starting MLB at the beginning of the 2011 NFL season but it certainly will not be because he did not give it his all. He was also only one of two linebackers that played in all 16 games and remained fairly healthy in 2010.
2. Michael Boley, 6’3″ 225 pounds- Boley has been a great signing for the G-Men and lead all linebackers in tackles last season. This guy hits hard and seems to be all over the field trying to get to the ball. I expect him to have another good season in 2011 and establish some consistency to an area of the team that really needs it. Boley was also the only other linebacker who played in all 16 games in 2010.
3. Gerris Wilkinson, 6’3″ 231 pounds – Wilkinson has had an up and down career for years with Big Blue. He has been plagued by injuries for most of his young career but has enough talent to keep him on the roster. It feels like Wilkinson has been on the team forever but it has only been five years now.
4. Keith Bulluck, 6’3″ 235 pounds – Bulluck is the crafty veteran and he was brought in last season to bolster a LB group that seemed to be in trouble. He had a decent 2010 season for the time he was on the field but once again, he was a player who was effected by injuries. There are questions about him being with the team in 2011 because the Giants will most assuredly address the linebacker group as they look to get younger and faster. Still, I believe the G-Men need a veteran player to be a leader in the locker room and teach these youngsters how to be an NFL LB.
5. Clint Sintim, 6’2″ 256 pounds – Sintim is a player who coaches and fans will need to see more of on the field. Once again, the recurring theme for Big Blue is injuries, injuries and more injuries. Sintim played in 9 games in 2010 but should see more playing time in 2011 if he can stay healthy. The guy is a physical specimen and someone who has the talent and heart to make it big in the NFL.
6. Phillip Dillard, 6’0″ 245 pounds – Dillard missed most of his rookie season with an injury but was getting a lot of praise from the coaches during training camp. He was extremely vocal and seemed to grasp the middle linebacker role rather quickly. Could he be a possibility at the middle LB spot for the 2011 season? Sure, why not. Dillard is one of the guys that fans and coaches have not seen enough of on the field to make an intelligent decision about his future. I am rooting for this young man to do well.
7. Chase Blackburn, 6’3″ 247 pounds – Blackburn is hands down the best special teams player on the roster and one heck of a backup linebacker. His value to the team cannot be underestimated and fans have come to love him for the effort he gives on the field and his lack of complaining when things don’t go his way. He was banged up a bit in 2010 but I expect nothing less then another solid season from this man in 2011.
8. Zak DeOssie, 6’4″ 249 pounds – In the immortal words of the legendary film “Animal House’, Zak DeOssie is a legacy member of Big Blue because his dad played on the team back in the day. DeOssie has made a name for himself as the long snapper and a solid backup linebacker when the situation arises. He has been with the Giants since being drafted by them and continues to be a solid contributor for the team.
9. Adrian Tracy, 6’2″ 248 pounds – Tracy missed his entire rookie season due to injury in 2010 and still needs to show coaches and fans what he can do. I’m not sure what to expect from him but I’m hoping he has healed up and can help out the team in 2011.
10. Kenny Ingram, 6’6″ 229 pounds – Ingram is currently on the reserve future list and he is someone the fans were rooting for before the 2010 season started. He was no doubt brought in for depth and his status for the 2011 NFL season is up in the air for now.
What are your thoughts on the Giants linebackers and what would you do to improve this squad?