With Jonathan Goff down for the season with an ACL tear I know you guys are gnashing your teeth trying to figure out what the New York Giants should do at middle linebacker. It seems likely that the Giants will sign veteran Kawika Mitchell if he looks healthy when he visits the Timex Performance Center for a workout. I thought I would burn a little midnight oil and give you what I think are the reasons why the choice will be Mitchell instead of any of the other names mentioned.
We will get to Mitchell eventually, but first let's go through some of the other names I have heard bandied about.
Lofa Tatupu: 'GiantsReignSupreme' asked 'Why have we not signed Lofa Tatupu?' in a Fanpost Tuesday evening. Fact is, it's the same reason none of the other 31 NFL teams have signed him yet, either. The consensus around the league seems to be that the three-time Pro Bowler's knees are shot. He was a great player from 2005-2007, but hasn't been the same the past three seasons.
Keith Bulluck: After spending last season with the Giants, the 34-year-old has still not found a job. I thought Bulluck might be the Giants' first call, but remember that the Giants only played him part time last season and seemed to decide the middle was not the place for him. Defensive coordinator Perry Fewell has also coached Mitchell, and this move simply makes it seem like Fewell prefers a healthy Mitchell to a healthy Bulluck.
Phillip Dillard: The Giants cut the 2010 fourth-round pick over the weekend, and bringing him back once Goff went down might have been an easy thing to do. Reaching out to Mitchell, though, tells you a lot about what the Giants think of Dillard's ability to play in the league. General manager Jerry Reese can be as stubborn as an old mule when it comes to parting with draft choices, and the fact that the Giants did not reach out Dillard tells you they don't believe he is an NFL-caliber middle linebacker.
Chase Blackburn: First of all, let's be honest here. If the Giants thought Blackburn was a quality middle linebacker at the NFL level they would have given him the job a couple of years ago when Antonio Pierce went down instead of giving it to Goff. He was a popular guy and a good special teams player, but he is not a starting middle linebacker. Blackburn has not been able to find a job this season, and good friend Pat Traina of Inside Football wondered via Twitter if Blackburn is actually healthy enough to play right now.
As for Mitchell, he was a popular player and an under-appreciated part of the Giants' Super Bowl-winning team in 2007. He has played both in the middle and on the outside in his career, and has one full season and part of a second under his belt playing for Fewell. The fact that the Giants reached out to the 31-year-old tells you Fewell appreciates him.
The question will be how healthy he is, and how long he can hold up. Mitchell has played just six games the past two seasons and has suffered foot and knee injuries.
The Giants will have to turn to sixth-round pick Greg Jones to begin the season. I think everyone can see that Jones has ability, and that getting him so late in the draft was a coup for the Giants. Question is, without any summer mini-camps or exposure to the Giants' defensive playbook, can Jones quarterback a defense that cannot afford missteps if the Giants are going to get back to the playoffs for the first time in three years?
We will find out the answer soon enough.