Thursday, April 26, 2012

New York Giants Draft Preview: Linebackers

This is the 8th installment in the series of posts breaking down the Giants position by position for the upcoming NFL Draft.  The next position up is linebacker.

The Giants currently have Michael Boley, Keith Rivers, Mathias Kiwanuka, Chase Blackburn, Jacquian Williams, Greg Jones, Mark Herzlich, Clint Sintim, Spencer Paysinger and Adrian Tracy on the depth chart at linebacker.  The only linebacker that remains unsigned for the Giants is Jonathan Goff.

Last season the Giants defensive coordinator Perry Fewell was most comfortable going with two linebackers on the field, opting to using a third safety instead.  The addition of Keith Rivers should have an effect on that philosophy, enabling the Giants to go to a more traditional three linebacker set.  Rivers gives the Giants a third true linebacker to go along with Boley and Kiwanuka.  Rivers had a rough go of it in Cincinnati, but was a top 10 pick when he came out of USC in 2008.  The Giants like his speed and the sideline to sideline ability Rivers has and are hoping that a change of scenery in combination to a fresh start can help him reach his potential.  The acquisition of Rivers gives the Giants new found flexibility at the linebacker position giving them plenty of options.

Kiwanuka could be seeing more action at his more natural defensive end position this season.  The loss of Dave Tollefson and the addition of Rivers, the defensive line is in need of Kiwanuka more than the linebacking corps. 

Jacquian Williams was a nice surprise last season for the Giants.  A product coming out of USF like Pierre-Paul the season prior, showed elite athleticism.  His speed and ability to play coverage really helps the Giants, and should only get better with a full season behind him and his first full training camp ahead of him.

GM Jerry Reese is also very high on the potential middle linebackers Jones and Herzlich posses.  They were pressed into action last season because of injuries and responded much better than you would expect from a 6th round rookie and an undrafted free agent.  Look for them to have their biggest impact on special teams throughout the season. 

Another player to keep an eye on is Clint Sintim.  He will be returning from his second consecutive season ended prematurely because of an ACL tear.  Sintim was penciled in as one of the starting outside linebackers last season and should come out aggressive wanting to get his spot back. 

Paysinger and Tracy are two more young players the Giants like and will add competition in training camp.  Paysinger had his biggest impact on the team last year as a valuable member of the coverage teams.
The last time the Giants drafted a linebacker was last year, when they took Williams out of USF and Jones out of Michigan State, both in the 6th round.  This time around, the Giants are well stocked at linebacker, but that does not mean they still are not looking.  Draft experts have the Giants linked to a number of linebackers.  One is Dont’a Hightower out of Alabama, who if falls in the draft is expected to be snapped up for the Giants.  Another name to pay attention to is Lavonte David of Nebraska.  Draft expert Todd McShay is very high on him and very well could be available to the Giants at 32 or in the second round.  I would place the necessity of the Giants adding a linebacker at a 3 on a scale of 1-10.

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