Mark Herzlich has been a member of the New York Giants for the past three seasons. Can the reserve linebacker make that four seasons? Let's look at Herzlich as we continue player-by-player profiles of the 90-man roster the Giants will bring to training camp on July 21.
2013 Season In Review
The Giants were atrocious covering kickoffs and punts last season, but that was not Herzlich's doing. Herzlich had 13 special teams tackles to lead the Giants and ended the season with a +3.5 special teams grade from Pro Football Focus, best on the Giants for a non-kicker. Problem is, after three seasons in the league the fan favorite does not seem capable of becoming more than a special teams player.
Three times in three seasons the Giants have turned to Herzlich to start at middle linebacker. Each time, including 2013 when he started twice before the arrival of Jon Beason, the Giants have found Herzlich's play wanting. Herzlich played only 194 defensive snaps last season and had a -6.8 PFF grade, including -6.1 covering the pass. He graded -2.1 vs. the run, but +1.2 rushing the passer.
2014 Season Outlook
Tellingly, when asked what the team's options were until injured middle linebacker Jon Beason returns, head coach Tom Coughlin said "we have two." Coughlin mentioned Jameel McClain -- who has been moved there until Beason returns. He also mentioned rookie fifth-round pick Devon Kennard. Herzlich's name never came up. As much as we know Coughlin respects Herzlich for the personal battle he fought with cancer to not only survive, but then make it to the NFL, apparently Coughlin has seen enough of Herzlich at middle linebacker.
That would mean Beason, McClain, Kennard, Spencer Paysinger and Jacquian Williams are the Giants' top five linebackers. Where does that leave the 26-year-old Herzlich? It leaves him fighting off challenges from young undrafted free agents Justin Anderson and Dan Fox, along with veteran Spencer Adkins and newly-acquired Terrell Manning just to remain on the roster as the Giants' sixth linebacker.
Will Herzlich's special teams acumen be enough to secure a spot on the roster? Time will tell, of course, but right now it appears that Herzlich is no lock to be one of the 53 players who open the season for the Giants.