For my first post I thought I would try to establish a rubric, so to speak, for my own dissatisfaction with the MLB situation. I know it seems sometimes that I (Igs) am only seeing this thing from the ‘glass half empty’ perspective, but in truth there are a number of important angles that inform my reservations:
How close are the Giants?
This speaks more to the general draft and personnel philosophy. Do you see the Giants as a team trying to figure out how to make a championship run or a team that has already put all the pieces together and won a ring? Quite a few of the players the Giants have drafted in the past two seasons would suggest the former, players that were two to thee years away on draft day, like Ramses Barden, Travis Beckum, Linval Joseph, and of course, Jason Pierre-Paul.
If these developmental players were taken late in the draft, did not cost multiple picks, or were drafted to a team without needs, I would be more comfortable with them. But some of these guys were drafted in places where players that filled a need could have been taken, like maybe a middle linebacker.
Quality of depth
Do you agree, like much of the projections, that the Giants will find their next Mike backer in the depth chart? I think if you’re honest with yourself, many of the candidates just wont look viable. Let’s start with the completely unlikely. Gerris Wilkinson doesn’t have a chance. You just don’t take a guy that failed miserably at Will and expect him to become your next starting Mike, a position that requires greater lateral quickness, instincts, and a certain kind of smarts. Precedent-wise, has anyone ever failed so miserably at WLB and gone on to success at MLB?
Phillip Dillard was a productive college MLB. But he is a thumper. He’s a run-stopping specialist, great at filling, but not so great at covering TEs, slot receivers, and RBs. That’s a serious liability in a pro 4-3 defense, especially in a Tampa 2 system, where the MLB has a greater coverage responsibility. Linebackers like Dillard really can’t start unless they’re in a 3-4 playing next to another coverage MLB.
Then there’s Brian Kehl, who hasn’t quite flourished yet, but makes a lot of sense as Michael Boley’s understudy. Again, just the fact that he has yet to be successful as a weakside linebacker is pretty much a guarantee that he can’t play the middle.
Johnathan Goff, Chase Blackburn, and my favorite dark horse, Micah Johnson are the three MLB prospects that have a realistic shot at starting. Blackburn just isn’t enough of an athlete and his lack of success at the position is well documented, though he brings some good veteran experience to the table.
Goff has questionable coverage skills and instincts. Johnson, the UDFA, has a chance to really emerge from this large group of backup players. Johnson nursed foot and knee injuries during a very productive 2009 campaign (105 Tackles, 51 Solo) and carried those injuries into the pre-draft period, which would explain a very slow 40-time.
Relevence of the MLB in the 4-3 system
How important is all this MLB talk anyway? John Fennelly proposes that the Giants organization places relatively low value on LBs. And I think he’s dead on.
Reese’s recent decisions indicate that he thinks the position is negligible. And it’s funny that Coughlin, this season’s sacrificial lamb, plays along, because he never had LBs in Jacksonville, and that team spent a lot of time not quite getting there. But I just can’t think of a successful Giants team that lacked great linebackers. From LT. Harry Carson, Carl Banks, to Jessie Armstead, Antonio Pierce and Kawika Mitchell.
I can’t think of one successful period in the modern history of the Giants where they haven’t had great LB play. So when did the organization adapt this ridiculous stance? Are they haunted by the ghost of LaVar Arrington?
Furthermore, though the Giants still have major question marks at DT, this is a relatively complete defense outside of this MLB. But in a 4-3, how viable is it to have a complete defense without the MLB that brings it all together, a Brian Urlacher, a Ray Lewis, a Gary Bracket, an… Antonio Pierce.
One has to question the wisdom of the great Jerry Reese for leaving this very strong defense without its quarterback, particularly when there were quite a few great candidates available in the draft, one of them a surefire 10 year starter: Sean Weatherspoon, Donald Washington, and Jamar Cheney among others. These guys actually fit in the Tampa-2 system.
We’ve discussed all these issues in the past on the Giants Blog on some level, and I’m sure all of us are holding out some kind of hope that things workout this season. And by “workout” I mean this team wins a Super Bowl. But if you can put all these angles together and not have just a little bit of apprehension about this season, then I have to wonder if you have a pulse.
Yesterday John Fennelly reported that Goff and Dillard are receiving the bulk of the MLB reps. So one would assume that Goff has emerged as the starter and Dillard as his backup. But one has to ask the question, emerged from what? From Gerris Wilkinson, Brian Kehl, Chase Blackburn, and two UDFAs?
I’m just not convinced. You have a very good 4-3 defense that lacks the most important cog, MLB, as well as some good leadership. Most of the candidates to start don’t look viable. Meanwhile, you’re fielding three RE, two that have proven to be a liability in the run game. Your GM doesn’t think it’s an issue. Maybe Coach Coughlin will cover all those offensive players making money in the middle of the field with a safety.
Oh wait. It’s 2010. Defenses don’t really get away with that kind of stuff anymore.