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New York Giants Search for Linebacker Help Shows Little Faith in Mark Herzlich as Starter

September 18th, 2013 at 6:30 AM
By Doug Rush

A lot of New York Giants fans have been noticing one of the problems on the current defense through the first two weeks of the season; and no, it's not the pass rush, which is a subject for another day. This one is the linebacker situation and the lack-there-of with having able names and bodies out on the field.

It's not so much the outside linebacker spot, as Keith Rivers, Jacquian Williams and Spencer Paysinger have for the most part, done their jobs on the field for the Giants, but instead, it's the middle linebacker position that has drawn the most criticism from those all over, and even the Giants coaches and management know this.

Dan Connor was the guy the Giants were entrusting to be the every-down starter in the middle, and he was a decent option in the middle that Tom Coughlin and Jerry Reese were able to live with using as the starter, but after suffering his second straight neck burner in Week 1, it forced him to go on season-ending injured reserve and force Mark Herzlich into the starting lineup.

Now, lets make it very clear, we here at Giants 101 think very highly of Herzlich as a person and have always hoped for nothing but the best for him on the field, but when it comes right down to it, Herzlich is not meant to be a starter on the field and best suited to be a backup, which we all saw in Week 2 against the Denver Broncos where he was out of position in the run game and got burned in pass coverage.

So it was only fitting that on Tuesday, the Giants had in former linebacker Jonathan Goff and former Seattle Seahawks linebacker Leroy Hill in for a visit and workout with the team; although neither player walked away from the meeting on Tuesday with a signed deal. At least, not yet. But the interest shows everyone that the Giants don't trust the as-is situation.

If you want to go back even further to the summer, the Giants weren't satisfied with the as-is situation with Herzlich and Connor competing for the middle linebacker job, which saw Reese strongly pursue former Green Bay Packers linebacker Desmond Bishop, who was released from the team after battling injuries, but when healthy, was an immediate upgrade over both Herzlich and Connor, but Bishop decided to spurn the Giants and sign with the Minnesota Vikings instead, thus forcing the Giants to go as-is in the middle of the defense.

And if you even want to go one step back, the Giants brought back Chase Blackburn on a one-year deal after the 2011 season and had him and Herzlich compete for the starting job and while the Giants gave Herzlich plenty of opportunities to win the job, Blackburn won the job in a landslide of a competition last summer and was one of the more consistent players on a struggling defense. In fact, if Blackburn didn't look for a multi-year deal in the offseason, there's very realistic possibility that Blackburn is still a Giant and not on the opposite end playing against them this weekend as a member of the Carolina Panthers.

In the past, Reese hasn't made the linebacker position as much of a priority like he does with the defensive line, but that philosophy is coming back to haunt him early on in the season and part of the reason why the Giants have surrendered 77 total points in those games. Reese can only ignore the situation for so long before it finally catches up with the defense and big plays and a lot of yards start going against the defense, which has already happened with the Dallas Cowboys and Broncos doing just that. 

It would be wise of the Giants to consider adding a name in the next couple of weeks to add depth and potentially, a starting name that could move Herzlich back to the reserve spot and attempt to make a Giants defense a little more improved with enough time in the season before it's too late to make changes for the better.

Photo credit: BigBlueCowboy via photobucket cc

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Tags: Dan Connor, Desmond Bishop, Football, Jonathan Goff, Leroy Hill, Mark Herzlich, New York, New York Giants, NFL

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12 Responses to “New York Giants Search for Linebacker Help Shows Little Faith in Mark Herzlich as Starter”

  1.  giankees says:

    I like the guy i like his story i dont like the way he plays in perrys system. He makes tackles after 8 yd gains. Best def that they played all yr was 1st half in the den game when he was on the bench

  2.  JimStoll says:

    this is for FF:

    Ralph Vacchiano ?@RVacchianoNYDN 10h
    The Seattle Seahawks signed former Giants DE Adewale Ojomo to their practice squad today

  3.  Krow says:

    The difference between being a star NFL player and just a guy is small … very small. I suspect that Herzlich’s battle with a serious disease robbed him of that special something that had him projected as a #1 pick. In fact him just playing at the professional level after all that is a testament to how great he would have been.

  4.  BBWC says:

    I find it extremely strange that they placed Conner on IR for a burner (normally a short recovery time). There must of been something else, I thought that possibly they were after Bradford who came available the same day they placed Conner on IR.

    •  Nosh.0 says:

      I thought the same thing. I think they may not have been thrilled about him trying to bring a knife on an airplane or whatever he got arrested for. And this was an excuse to dump him.

      Just feels like there is more of a story here then season ending burner for Conner.

      • Dan BentonDan Benton says:

        It was his third burner in a calendar year. I read somewhere after he was placed on IR that it’s a common designation for players who suffer three in a 365 day span.

  5.  BBWC says:

    I do like Herz and I still think he has a chance to get better atleast mentally…..he has good work ethics and with more experience on the field he should improve.

  6.  fanfor55years says:

    Truth be told, there aren’t guys out there who can do for us at linebacker what we would like. Frankly, the position of MLB in a 4-3 defense is dying out anyway in a pass-oriented NFL. If you play with three linebackers (as opposed to two or four, which will become the more ordinary defensive sets) you have to find three who can both cover and be run-stoppers, with the emphasis on the former skill for your outside backers (along with being able to run with mobile quarterbacks) and a slight emphasis on the latter for the guy in the middle. As these college offensive schemes start to penetrate the NFL we may start to see teams going to defenses that consistently have three corners and three safeties (one of them a bit bigger so he looks like an undersized outside linebacker, which he probably was in college) and only use one linebacker, a guy with speed and a decent amount of power (scouts will have a far easier time finding one or two of those guys in the college ranks than having to find multiples of that to build depth charts for their teams).

    Of course, the Giants may be among the last to switch from the 4-3 and may only do so when they recognize that MLBers just aren’t being produced much any longer in the college ranks, and when you want to grab a really good one you have to spend an early pick to get him.

    If I were running this team I would be scouting the best young MLBers in the NFL right now and preparing to pay a lot of money to get him in free agency. Given the arc of Eli’s career, we don’t have forever to find, draft, and develop someone in that position. It has to be someone who is proven, and young. Grabbing someone in his fifth year in the league (I doubt teams will franchise MLBers, especially because many will be phasing the position out) seems like the much smarter bet to me.

    I also feel strongly that Reese needs to go sign a really good interior lineman in free agency next season while also drafting another O-lineman high in each of the next two drafts. Get the room in free agency by dumping salary elsewhere and by restructuring (start with Eli because it’s his body being protected and he needs to be asked to pay for that), knowing there’s at least some relief coming in 2015 from a moderate cap expansion. This, to me, is the biggest priority on this team right now. And I say that even while thinking that Mosley will be good and Brewer might turn out well too by next season. With the skill levels we have on offense the only way we will not become a devastating scoring machine that can win championships with the offense is by not improving a clearly inadequate group in the trenches on that side of the ball.

  7.  G-menfan4lyfe says:

    It seems like Herzlich is taking some of the blame from the Denver game for the long run plays by Moreno. Don’t know how you blame the MLB for those outside runs when the DE and OLB on that side failed to keep contain. Yeah he’s a liability in coverage but he isn’t a terrible run defender. Probably better than anything that’s out there available right now.

    And week 1 vs Dallas, yeah Witten scored a TD on him but Herzlich was right there on his hip. Not like he got burned or anything. Like someone above said, he just needs more experience and maybe he can start to make plays like that. Because he was in good position to stop the TD from happening he just didn’t have the awareness as to where the ball was going to be.

    •  rlhjr says:

      It’s not all on Herzlich. To be sure he has (depending on scheme) one or two more partners in crime to look to. Truth is Herzlich can’t play the position. He has no pop, no explosion and is unable to get where his instinct leads him.

      Smart team will run away from Tuck (until JPP comes on-line) and toward Kiwi.
      They have nothing to fear from any of the linebackers the Giants play.
      If you really watch this defense, you’ll find safeties and corners filling the gaps and making tackles vs. the run. The linebacking corps is (other than Williams and Paysinger pass defense) worthless. And don’t think other NFL teams don’t know that for a fact.

      For God’s sake the majority of posters on this site know it. And even those with heads firmly stuck in their nether regions on some level know it too. It’s not very hard to see.

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