If I went back into the late 80s and transported a fan who was used to watching Lawrence Taylor, Carl Banks and Harry Carson into present times and made them watch a Giants game last year…well you get where I’m going with this. For a franchise who used to have such a proud tradition of linebackers, the current landscape of this unit is bordering on ludicrous.
We’ll start with the good. Michael Boley is not perfect, but he is, at the very least, a nice starting linebacker. He was a smart, somewhat under-the-radar signing that has not paid huge dividends, but has provided the Giants with their best linebacker over the past couple of years. Jonathan Goff was thrust into the starting middle linebacker role, and played better than expected in his first full season. He is strong against the run and a solid overall player.
And there you have it. That’s about all the good things I have to say about the Giants’ linebacker core. If this unit was buoyed by a stud outside linebacker, the team could get away with having Boley and Goff at the other two spots. But the Giants have burned through a handful of names over the past few years at both outside and middle linebacker, including Keith Bulluck, Gerris Wilkinson, Bryan Kehl, Danny Clark, and Clint Sintim. None of them have stuck.
The Giants even tried to move one of their excellent defensive linemen to OLB. Mathias Kiwanuka showed flashes, but usually looked like a defensive lineman playing out of position. If not for his injury last season, he likely would have gotten more time to transition into a rush linebacker. Instead, the gaping hole remains.
Two very different young players, Greg Jones and Jacquian Williams, were taken in the sixth round of this years draft. Jones is an undersized but polished leader who was expected to go as early as the third round. Williams is raw and unrefined, but has great speed and athleticism. Neither seem likely to factor into the 2011 season, although Jones could see some time on defense if no free agents are added. The most exciting young linebacker on the roster may be 2010 draft pick Adrian Tracey, who missed all of 2010 due to injury.
The Giants have been searching for a leader in their linebacking core since Antonio Pierce was let go. Whether or not that player is on the roster right now is unknown, but the smart money is on the “not.” As it stands right now, the linebacking core is in need of some major help.