Last year around this time, the New York Giants had a lot of question marks surrounding the entire linebacker position and people wondered if they would make the necessary upgrades to help.
The team was linked to being a landing spot for long-time Chicago Bears middle linebacker Brian Urlacher, but he retired before the 2013 season and the Giants were interested in former Green Bay Packers linebacker Desmond Bishop, but he signed with the Minnesota Vikings over the Giants and left the team scrambling for options heading into the summer.
Dan Connor was added in the first week of free agency, but he landed on season-ending injured reserve with a neck burner following Week 1 against the Dallas Cowboys, Aaron Curry was signed almost a year ago to date, but he struggled to find his form in the preseason and training camp after being a former first round pick back in 2009 and ultimately, not only lead to his release, but his retirement from the NFL. Keith Rivers was brought back on a one-year deal, but struggled as a starter, became a non-factor and is now playing for the Buffalo Bills.
That left Jacquain Williams, who was recovering from missing time from a knee injury the season before, Mark Herzlich, who struggled as a starter although is more efficient on special teams, and Spencer Paysinger, who was consistent enough to be a starter, but needed help. That was until the Giants traded for Jon Beason from the Carolina Panthers and it transformed the defense from a 31st overall defense by Week 6 into an eighth-ranked defense by the end of the season.
In the off-season, the Giants signed Jameel McClain from the Baltimore Ravens and drafted Devon Kennard out of USC in the fifth round of the 2014 NFL Draft, additions that can help the Giants in this season and make an already good defense an even better one. On Friday, Paysinger said that the linebacker positions is no longer a position of weakness and one of strength.
"You could imagine when Beason came in how that transformed our defense," Spencer Paysinger said this week at the United Way Gridiron Gala. "Give him a full year under this system, have him learn all the nuances of it, we're starting off in a better place. When you look at the linebacker room now, there's no way anyone can say linebacker is a weakness. I feel like we did some really good things in free agency. Bringing over Jameel, signing some free agents and our rookie linebackers, the room looks pretty strong right now."