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New York Giants linebackers: Assessing where they stand

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Did we learn anything about the Giants linebackers after one day of organized team activities? Here is a brief assessment.

New York Giants linebackers Spencer Paysinger (52) , Keith Rivers (55) and Mark Herzlich (58) during OTAs Wednesday at the Timex Performance Center
New York Giants linebackers Spencer Paysinger (52) , Keith Rivers (55) and Mark Herzlich (58) during OTAs Wednesday at the Timex Performance Center
Jim O'Connor-USA TODAY Sports

New York Giants coach Tom Coughlin was asked a few questions about Aaron Curry, the linebacker the Giants recently signed as a free agent. One of the answers he gave pretty much applied to the entire linebacking unit.

"There are plenty of opportunities; everybody has got a great opportunity. There is nothing in concrete there," Coughlin said. "Matter of fact, I speak about that all of the time. I think it is a great opportunity."

The key phrase in all of that is "there is nothing concrete in there." Coughlin is telling us that all three linebacker jobs are up for grabs. With that in mind, let's assess the current situation. Nothing, of course, can really be gleaned from one day. What came out of Wednesday's workout, however, does give us something to discuss.

Middle linebacker

Mark Herzlich lined up here with the first unit on Wednesday, with free-agent signees Curry and Dan Connor taking reps behind him. Maybe it was Herzlich instead of Connor simply because of familiarity with the defense. It might, however, indicate Herzlich has a chance to win the job. In the end I would still be surprised if this job goes to anyone other than Connor. We probably won't know for certain until training camp.

Weak-side linebacker (WILL)

This is Jacquain Williams vs. Spencer Paysinger. Common belief is that this is Williams' job to lose, but don't be shocked if Paysinger emerges. He played a bigger role on defense at the end of the season, and if Williams keeps opening the door for him by staying on the sideline as he did Wednesday to protect the PCL he injured a year ago Paysinger might just knock the door down.

Strong-side linebacker (SAM)

Basically, this comes down to Keith Rivers vs. himself. It would seem to be Rivers' job -- if the oft-injured former first-round pick can actually stay on the field to handle it. If Rivers can't stay on the field, Paysinger could slide into this spot. For that matter, so could Curry, Herzlich or even Connor. Reports from Wednesday's OTAs were that Mathias Kiwanuka worked exclusively at defensive end, while third-round pick Damontre Moore spent considerable time standing up at linebacker.