Pro Football Focus came out this week with a look at what it has determined to be the biggest offseason question for each of the NFL’s 32 teams. Pardon me for being incredulous, but after seeing that PFF’s John Kosko listed fixing the linebacking corps as the biggest question for the New York Giants that’s exactly what I am.
Here is what Kosko wrote:
For what seems like 20 seasons, the linebackers employed by the Giants have been really bad. Devon Kennard played well in 2016 with a season grade of 79.1, but being the SAM backer, he saw just 46.5 percent of the defense’s snaps. Jonathan Casillas improved in run defense this season, but continues to struggle in pass coverage, while Keenan Robinson and Kelvin Sheppard were two of the worst overall linebackers in the NFL in 2016.
Last offseason, the Giants invested heavily in their defensive line and secondary, but ignored the middle of the unit. This offseason, they would be wise to address that area — whether that be through the draft or free agency — due to the lack of play-makers manning the middle of the field. ... there will be plenty of options, and drafting a play-making linebacker would be the best choice for New York, considering that the Giants will need to extend Odell Beckham Jr. soon, and have a decision to make with regards to free-agent-to-be Jason Pierre-Paul.
Umm ... what? Let’s start with this. The second paragraph of that argument makes no sense. What does having to extend Beckham or having a decision to make with JPP have to do with finding a linebacker?
Now, on to the real crux of the argument.
The biggest offseason concern for the Giants is not linebacker, it is trying to repair their under-performing offense. They need to get better play from the offensive tackles, and they need more play-makers. To argue that any portion of the defense is the biggest offseason concern is to ignore the fact that the Giants were carried by their defense and let down by their offense last season.
As for linebacker play, the Giants’ unyielding philosophy of not prioritizing the position in the draft or free agency during this century has long been a bone of contention for Giants’ fans. It sure would be nice to have an All-Pro caliber three-down linebacker as part of the Giants’ defense. That defense, though, did pretty well without one last season, finishing second in the league in scoring defense.
If anything, 2016 showed that when you build a dominant defensive line and a deep secondary you can thrive with even adequate linebacker play.
The biggest question on the defense is whether or not the Giants, with Pierre-Paul and Johnathan Hankins heading to free agency, can keep that line together. If they can’t, how will they rebuild it?
Linebacker? Yes, everybody who knows even a little bit about the Giants should know that the last time they used a first-round pick on a linebacker is when they selected Carl Banks in 1984. That drought has to end someday. I still believe it would have ended last year had Leonard Floyd not been selected one pick ahead of the Giants’ turn, and there are a couple of guys this year who make you think it could end this time around.
Certainly I think we can all agree that getting an all-around, every-down linebacker would be a good thing. To say the linebacker position is the Giants’ biggest offseason question, though, is missing the forest for the trees.