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New York Giants position review: Wanted -- real NFL linebackers

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Beezer Brigade, this is for you.

Devon Kennard
Devon Kennard
Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports

Year after year we come back to this same topic when we discuss the New York Giants. The patchwork approach to the linebacker position that leads to sub-par linebacker play. Such was the case again in 2015. Let's look back at the 2015 season, ahead to 2016 and talk about ways the Giants could finally solve their ongoing linebacker problem.

2015 in review

The Giants started the season with Jon Beason, Devon Kennard, and J.T. Thomas III as their linebackers. All three ended up on injured reserve. Beason (5), Kennard (9) and Thomas (12) played just 26 of a possible 48 games combined. The Giants ended the season with Jasper Brinkley, Mark Herzlich, and Jonathan Casillas playing. Undrafted free agent Uani 'Unga was mixed in there somewhere as well. Even with the three starters healthy, you can make a case that this group wasn't very good, with Kennard being the only impact player of the bunch. With the trio playing barely more than half the games? The position was a complete disaster. The Giants were the worst team in the league covering tight ends, giving up the most catches (101) and yards (1,303) to opposing tight ends, a lot of that was due to the problems at linebacker.

Is this a position of need?

Of course, it is. I recently described the Giants' approach to linebacker as an effort to cap a geyser with a Band-Aid. The Giants have drafted 15 linebackers since 2000 with only two (Gerris Wilkinson, Round 3, 2006 and Clint Sintim, Round 2, 2009) taken in the first three rounds. We have pointed out again and again that the last time the Giants drafted a linebacker in the first round was 1984 when they selected Carl Banks.

Does the organization have an unwillingness to recognize the importance of the position? Watch the Carolina Panthers with Luke Keuchly, Thomas Davis, and Shaq Thompson and you see the value. Same with the Denver Broncos and their duo of Von Miller and Danny Trevathan. Are the Giants' college scouts unable to properly evaluate players at the position? Have the Giants coaches been unable to develop whatever players they have been given? Is the team's approach in free agency wrong? A guy like Thomas is OK, but he couldn't start for the Detroit Lions or Jacksonville Jaguars. He had one nice game in 2014 against the Giants and earned a rich three-year contract from them. When will the Giants stop trying to piece the position together with late-round draft picks and free agent scraps tossed to the curb by other NFL teams?

What will the linebacking corps look like in 2016? Kennard will be part of the answer -- if he can stay healthy. He played only 12 games as a rookie and nine games in 2015. There is some speculation that Kennard, who was calling the defensive signals for a few games before being injured last season, could move to middle linebacker. The gamble, of course, is in building a defense around a guy who has proven to be a health risk.

Beyond Kennard and probably Thomas because of the contract he was given, I have no idea who the Giants' linebackers will be. We will spend a ton of time discussing draft prospects like Myles Jack, Jaylon Smith and Reggie Ragland, and potential free agents like Bruce Irvin or Trevathan.

Let's just hope that this time the Giants finally apply more than a Band-Aid in trying to fix the problem.