Ever since the retirement of Antonio Pierce, New York Giants fans have been hoping for a revamp of their linebacker corps. Now fans hold their breath with a linebacker unit constructed from middle-round picks and on the scrap heap. Linebacker coach Bill McGovern has some work to do trying to figure out the best linebacker configuration for this year. The best way to find out is through some friendly competition.
"It is an open competition," McGovern said on Tuesday. "We got a lot of guys in there with some experience, obviously we've added B.J. Goodson too into the mix. So, there's a number of guys competing for playing time right now."
The middle linebacker spot is particularly vexing, and McGovern offered no clues.
"Wide open," McGovern said. "Everybody is competing. Obviously we have three guys primarily that we are looking at, but all those guys will have opportunities to play going forward. Again, this is really the first time where we have shoulder pads on. We will start to find out once we get in and watch the tape a little bit. We will start to learn more about the guys."
Jasper Brinkley has gotten the nod so far as he's played with the rest of the first team defense.
"He was there last year," McGovern said. "You know, he was there, he finished the season that way. He's worked hard like all the guys, they've worked hard. Again, I stress saying that it's an open competition, everybody's going to get shots in there. Nobody's etched in stone in any position right now."
Perhaps the linebacker that most fans are excited for is Goodson, a fourth-round pick from Clemson. Can Goodson actually pass by some of his veteran teammates on the depth chart?
"Well, it is going to be now, as we get into the competition part and start playing against the offense with pads on --- he is going to have to perform," McGovern said. "He is going to have to show up. It is not just assignment football anymore where you just kind of have shorts and T-shirts. Now it is going to be, okay, what is my technique, how is my --- what can I produce, and when he starts going against better competition, does he produce."
At this year's training camp there seems to be more of an emphasis placed on the young players on the team. McGovern believes that he needs to develop his young players as quickly as possible and also believes he is a fair judge between the youth and the veterans.
"I think I am pretty fair getting on everybody," McGovern said. "I think I am pretty equal on that, but I would say, obviously, what you try to stress with him being a rookie is that there is a sense of urgency out there. We can’t get it right in a week or two, we have to get it right now. That is one of the big things that myself and some of the other guys in the room are trying to stress to him and to one another."
This competition may be wide open but McGovern and the Giants are clear in what they are looking from in their starters.
"I’m looking for a guy at all three positions who can play all three downs," McGovern said. "We will take any of those guys and I think that is what we are looking for. We are kind of studying to find out what their strengths are, what their weaknesses are and then trying to play to their strengths and minimize their weaknesses."