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New York Giants’ Mark Herzlich Being Groomed as MLB of the Future

October 23rd, 2012 at 3:05 PM
By Paul Tierney

New York Giants linebacker Mark Herzlich has not seen a lot of playing time this season. Despite a productive preseason and rumblings that he could take over at the starting middle linebacker position sooner rather than later, Herzlich has taken a backseat to teammate Chase Blackburn for the first seven games of 2012. Although Herzlich's lack of playing time is surprising, one would have a hard time finding a place for him within the Giants deep linebacker core. As the saying goes, don't fix something that's not broken.

The New York Giants defense has improved over the last two weeks. After holding Alex Smith and the San Francisco 49ers offense to three points, Big Blue forced four turnovers against the Washington Redskins to eek out a 27-23 victory. Perhaps the most influential turnover of the game came in the final minute, as Giants middle linebacker Chase Blackburn stripped Santana Moss of the football and effectively ended the game. Despite some blown coverages at time this season, Blackburn has played better than expected so far through 2012.

Blackburn has 42 tackles through seven games this season, as well as two forced fumbles and an interception. While it would be hard to make the case that Herzlich should be seeing playing time over Blackburn at this point of the season, the Giants are clearly grooming Herzlich as the middle linebacker of the future. Head coach Tom Coughlin recently stated that he thinks Blackburn is good mentor to the second-year player out of Boston College.

"I think Mark will be a good middle backer going forward because he’s learning from a good one," Coughlin said. Adding that Blackburn is "most difficult" to force out of the starting job. "His acumen is so sharp. He takes great pride in the communication part of it. Mark has learned a lot from Chase."

For the first time in a long time, the Giants have serious depth at the linebacker position. When Jacquian Williams missed last week's game, Keith Rivers filled in admirably. Michael Boley has played well, Mathias Kiwanuke is as versatile as ever, and Blackburn has been force against opposing rushing attacks. Herzlich was an undrafted free agent that was signed with the knowledge that he would be a project and he's still a work in progress at this point.

However, Mark Herzlich has shown great potential so far through his limited playing time. While he still has a lot to learn, the Giants know they have a potential stud middle linebacker of the future waiting in the wings behind Chase Blackburn. Hopefully Herzlich breaks out of his shell sooner rather than later, but Big Blue has a capable player in Blackburn holding down the fort until then.

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Tags: Alex Smith, Boston College, Chase Blackburn, Football, Jacquian Williams, Keith Rivers, Mark Herzlich, Michael Boley, New York, New York Giants, NFL, San Francisco, San Francisco 49ers, Tom Coughlin, Washington Redskins

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37 Responses to “New York Giants’ Mark Herzlich Being Groomed as MLB of the Future”

  1.  kujo says:

    readimg and posting on my xbox. science!!!! now if only ff55 could tell me wtf ane-fax is i would really be rolling!!

  2.  GOAT56 says:

    I think this situation reminds me of Beatty. Many wanted Beatty to start his second year but he didn’t. However, he was named the starter for his 3rd season without winning the job. I expect Herzlich to have a similar course next year.

  3.  stuh says:

    I sure hope you’re right. This young man is not only a great story but I think he is avery good player and Blackburn is not geting any younger.

  4.  TonyMW says:

    I still stand by my opinion that Herzlich’s lack of playing time is due to his mental limitations rather than the physical. I know it’s a pretty common assumption that he may not be in the physical condition that he was pre-diagnosis, but I don’t think that’s the case. From what I saw of him in preseason, he’s at Blackburn’s level on a bad day. Unfortunately, the instincts he was known for in college don’t automatically transfer to the faster NFL level, but HE IS going to need some time soon if we hope to have him contribute fully in 2013. We HAVE won 2 SB’s w/ physically limited MLB’s, and I’m content until proven otherwise.

  5.  kujo says:

    Let’s get real here–there’s simply no way Chase Blackburn is a starter for much longer. What we saw late last season was a fresh legged go-getter come in a shore up the middle of our defense during the stretch. He’s savvy, he’s instinctive and he has enough downhill speed to be effective as a run blitzer. Hell, thanks to a banged up ankle, he was able to go toe-to-toe with one of the league’s best TEs and out-compete him for a ball that was underthrown way downhill. It was a HUGE play in the biggest possible situation. He’ll go down in Giants history because of it, and he’ll never buy another drink in New York again.

    Coming into 2011, the job was his to lose, despite our biggest of (white) hopes in Herzlich. But make no mistake–this is Herzlich’s job in 2013. Heck, we’re a twisted ankle or a concussion away from it being his job Sunday afternoon, and once he takes the field, he won’t give it back. The guy has all the physical ability in the world now, as evidenced by his chasing down and obliterating Josh Cribbs on that kickoff a few weeks ago (not to mention to poor DB who he killed on the opening kickoff this weekend). The period of time between joining this team and becoming the starter will only be about mastering the playbook and linking that knowledge to his body. He’s a beast in the making, and we should be proud to have him on this team. He’ll only be served better because of being under the tutelage of a gamer like Chase.

    •  Krow says:

      I echo your good sentiments on Chase. He gives it all he’s got … and for veteran minimum. He’s going to be a mini-legend in the annals of Giants football. But somewhere along the line the magic runs out … and all the heart and effort just won’t cut it anymore.

      When this happens … I hope they still have a place for Chase … I mean Blackula … on the roster.

  6.  Krow says:

    “I don’t care about your expectations. I don’t care about anybody’s expectations,” (Mario) Williams said when asked if he thinks he is living up to expectations, via the Buffalo News.

    … or … why spending large dollars on free agents isn’t always smart.

    •  Valid says:

      Called this during the offseason. Some Giant fans wanted Williams, but I wanted no part of him. He’s an extremely overrated player as far as I’m concerned.

  7.  Krow says:

    Victor Cruz on being slapped by Ahmad Bradshaw: “Lucky we were on the field, I almost snapped.”

    Very lucky. If they were off the field he’d have been slapped … and then Bradshaw would have beaten the snot out of him. But it does make you wonder what the hell was going through Bradshaw’s head. He was totally out of line, and looked like he lost it entirely. So out of character.

    •  Valid says:

      lol. I was just gonna say this. As much as I love Cruz, I bet Bradshaw was nowhere around when he made that comment.

      Anyway, I had no issue with Bradshaw getting fired up. I really think the team needed it.

  8.  ERICHONIUS says:

    I think it is more a coaching staff’s reluctance to part with Blackburn than any limitation of Herzlich… and right now Blackburn is giving solid production. There were times in the redskin game where I think that Blackburn’s speed hurt us and he also takes bad angles sometimes which exacerbates the problem… an example was a play where RG3 escaped to the strong side (3rd quarter?) and Blackburn was in the correct position but took too shallow an angle to keep RG3 from getting the outside. but with that said he is also a boon in short yardage situations due to his size… so it is a plus/minus with blackburn at times. Blackburn seems to also have an element of clutch-ness about him. He comes through with big plays and this isnt something new, for instance, I remember in week 10 of the 2008 season against the eagles, Blackburn made a key 4th down stop on westbrook to ensure a win in that game. We have yet to see whether herzlich has a clutch gene.

    •  Valid says:

      The Week 10 stop against Philly in ’08 was the first of MANY clutch plays Blackburn has made during his Giants tenure, and I think that is certainly why he remains the starting MLB.

  9.  kujo says:

    Chase makes plays because he’s almost always where he is supposed to be. And that’s great, but let’s not mythologize it–when he is in the wrong spot, he is incapable of making up ground due to his very clear physical limitations.

    That’s the issue I have with him continuing to be the starter and taker of all the snaps. I respect his mind, but I maintain that Herzlich will very likely be able to do what Chase does (i.e.- diagnose the play before the snap) and be better at what he isn’t able to do (i.e.- use his athletic gifts to make up for any mistakes he makes). It’s sort of like what some of us have been saying about Prince early in his career–sure he might get “beat” by veteran receivers, but the dude has the closing speed and raw athleticism to cover the ground his mistake gives up. I think Herzlich has that ability, as well.

    •  ERICHONIUS says:

      I am not trying to mythologize anything. I am giving him the credit that he deserves. In big games and in key moments in those games he comes through with not only stops but forces fumbles and makes interceptions… he plays above his average in the big moment. That is the definition of clutch and think through the last few years there are a number of times when he has displayed this… What big game have we lost because of Blackburn’s inability? in almost every game in the playoffs last year Blackburn made a big play

  10. Wow there is probably no conversation I’m more tired of than this whole “Chase Blackburn sucks and Mark Herzlich is awesome.”

    Obviously, Chase Blackburn is not the best player in the world. The Giants wouldn’t have sent him packing last year if he were.

    But, from where on earth you people get this idea that Herzlich is a super-star in the waiting, I’m just not sure.

    No one’s ever been under the assumption that Blackburn is a longterm solution at MLB…so if Herzlich was even close to getting ready to take that over, he’d be getting reps.

    But he doesn’t. In blowout games against the Panthers and Niners, he saw no burn (one drive in the Panthers game). Even in preseason, he wasn’t in any sort of competition with Blackburn. He wasn’t rotating in with the first team the way guys like Will Hill and even Dewayne Hendricks is.

    Sure, he’s made a play or two in preseason and on ST, but there’s a prevailing assumption that Herzlich is a stud for the next ten years and that it’s only a matter of time before he pushes Blackburn out of the job..and that’s an assumption that is based on sentiment and not anything we’ve seen.

    Give Blackburn a little bit of credit. He got pushed out as part of a youth movement…but since he’s been back he’s shown, and Coughlin’s admitted, that he’s doing his job more than well of it to not get pushed out for an undrafted rookie who the team HASN’T EVEN GIVEN A CHANCE to win the job.

    • And, for all of you who keep saying Herzlich is a remarkable athlete, he’s not the 19-year old kid from Boston College anymore. If he was still that guy, the Giants probably would have given him a real shot this preseason to win Chase’s job.

      I’m not trying to put Herzlich down in any way. His ascension to stud, super-athletic long-tenured MLB is not a foregone conclusion. It’s a prophecy many of you are buying into, and I’m just not sure why.

      I’m not saying the Herz will not be all that and a bag of chips (in fact, I readily admit that I don’t know what to make of Herzlich, mostly because I haven’t hardly seen him on the field)…I’m just saying that all of you who are sure as the sky is blue that he will are really going on nothing more than a gut feeling.

      •  Nosh.0 says:

        He’s the “Great White Hope!” Herzlich that is, not Mitt Romney. Now onto some power rankings.

        Football Outsiders Week 7 Power Rankings
        (Based on stats from every snap of every game this season.)

        Giants:
        Overall:3
        Offense: 2
        Defense: 14
        Special Teams: 11

        http://www.footballoutsiders.com/dvoa-ratings/2012/week-7-dvoa-ratings

      • Dan BentonDan Benton says:

        Watching Herzlich in camp this year, he seemed like a supreme athlete to Blackburn, but just wasn’t ready for the mental leadership and playcalling role of the MLB. Once he has that down, I think he replaces Blackburn without a second thought. And I’m a Blackburn fan.

        •  kujo says:

          I’ll add to it that Blackburn is the David Diehl of the defense–a guy who can be “good enough,” but whose wily-old veteran rep earns him the love and trust of Tom Coughlin. Neither Chase nor Diehl “suck,” but they are placeholders until the younger, more athletic, dare I say BETTER, guys beneath them on the depth chart are ready. For Diehl, it took an injury to unseat him, and I believe it will take another injury to either Beatty or Locklear to get him back into the starting lineup. There’s merit to this approach, and those merits are unimpeachable; after 2 Super Bowls, Coughlin gets to do these things without much in the way of grumbling from the fan base.

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