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Should the Giants take a flier on Devin Bush?

NFL: DEC 24 Raiders at Steelers Photo by Mark Alberti/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The New York Giants need assistance at linebacker - that’s no surprise. We’ve covered several impending free-agent linebackers over the last couple of weeks, but none were top 10 selections in their respective NFL drafts.

That is, of course, until right now; the Pittsburgh Steelers traded into the top 10 to select Devin Bush out of Michigan. Bush’s first year was promising but the former Big-10 Defensive Player of the Year suffered serious injuries throughout his first contract.

Bush was a consensus All-American for defensive coordinator Don Brown in 2018. Brown’s defense was an aggressive man system that allowed Bush to have two seasons with twenty or more pressures in college. Bush also had 13 career sacks.

Bush’s collegiate usage, experience in a man system, pedigree, and familiarity with the AFC North may intrigue Wink Martindale, now that the defensive coordinator will be returning to the Giants after his name was removed from the Colts’ head coaching search.

The injury history is a concern, and Pittsburgh didn’t find it necessary to exercise Bush’s fifth-year option. In his second NFL season, Bush tore his left ACL. He struggled in 2021, his first season back in action, but his 2022 was slightly better, despite taking a reserve role down the stretch of the season.

The basics

Age: 25 in the 2023 season
Height: 5-foot-11 | Weight: 234
Position: Inside linebacker
Experience: 4 seasons
2022 stats: Games: 17 | Tackles: (81) | Tackles for a loss: (2) | Stops: (27) | Pressures (7) | Interceptions: (0 | Passes defended: (1) | Reception percentage: (76.9 percent) | Missed tackles (3, 3.5 percent)

The skinny

Bush was a short explosive athlete coming out of Michigan in 2019. I remember studying his college film, he was very controlled in the tackle box, keying and diagnosing rushing concepts with a quick trigger downhill to meet backs at the line of scrimmage. He’s still a physical player who packs punch on contact.

I watched some of the Buccaneers’ game from 2022, and I loved this play from Bush:

(Devin Bush is No. 55)

With less than five minutes left in the game, Tampa Bay scored a touchdown to put their deficit at two points. Naturally, they went for the two-point conversion, and Bush did an excellent job reacting to Chris Godwin’s (14) drag route.

The Buccaneers motion Godwin to the closed side right before the snap; the tight end deliberately runs into the outside shoulder of Bush to open up Godwin’s drag, but Bush absorbed the contact, kept his eyes on Tom Brady (12), and came off the contact to undercut Godwin’s drag route. This forced an incomplete pass, and the Steelers won the game 20-18.

Bush has 286 career tackles, 173 of them are solo, 112 STOPS, 23 pressures, 13 tackles for a loss, with four sacks, two interceptions (both during his rookie year), 13 passes defended, two forced fumbles, and a touchdown. He’s a sure-tackler with only a 7.2 percent professional missed tackle rate. He had a 6.7 percent missed tackle rate in college.

Bush was a PFWA All-Rookie in 2019 before he tore his ACL five games into the 2020 season. It’s plausible that the 24-year-old’s best football is still ahead of him, and he’ll likely have to settle for a cheap prove-it deal. His experience in a system similar to Martindale's may entice him to want to play in New York since he has experience in man coverage and as a blitzing threat. has Bush’s contract at just a $3 million average annual value; they project the contract to be a one-year type of deal. That contract would position him with the likes of Las Vegas’ Denzel Perriman and just ahead of Detroit’s Alex Anzalone. If the Giants don’t spend big on the position (Tremaine Edmunds) or add a player like David Long or T.J. Edwards, a flier on Bush makes sense and could have some upside.