Entering the past few drafts, the position of linebacker has been a need for the Giants. In this particular draft, there are several good options to fill their need at strong-side linebacker, all of which hail from that same place: USC. One option though, stands out: Clay Matthews.
Matthews walked on at USC and was considered too small to ever play at the collegiate level. But in his senior year, Matthews started ten games while recording 56 tackles and 4.5 sacks.
Head coach Pete Carroll stated that had he started Matthews sooner, USC would have won a National Championship. At this point, Matthews is one of the biggest feel good stories in the 2009 Draft. His father Clay senior was an All-American at USC and played in the NFL from 1978-1996. His uncle Bruce played for the Houston Oilers/Tennessee Titans for 19 seasons, earning a place in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
As I mentioned, Clay Jr. was only a 200 pound scrawny walk on his freshman year, and would become a key cog in whether USC would bid for a National Championship by his senior year, he worked his way up by playing outstanding special teams, earning USC’s Special Teams Player of The Year three times in his career. Needless to say, Clay had his work cut out for him in order to make it to where he is now, and his best days are still in front of him.
Heading into several drafts, The Giants have had a need at linebacker, and with some creative usage of their picks, they could land Matthews. Matthews would be the perfect fit for The Giants on the strong side. Matthews may not last until Big Blue’s first-second round pick, but there are plenty of ways to grab him, even a possible first round selection. With Matthews pedigree, work ethic, versatility, and ability to rush the passer, he is surely someone The Giants would love to grab to fill their sole position of need on defense.
On the other hand, USC’s other outside linebacker, Brian Cushing, has been on the national radar since his freshman year, when he played defensive end for The Trojan’s National Championship team.
Cushing’s game has a number of holes, both in terms of his technique and motor. Regardless, his physical tools are unquestionable, at six foot three, 243 pounds. He is a buzzard when blitzing and his attitude is unquestionable. Cushing works out as hard as anyone on the planet and he has a very professional attitude. He is eager to begin his career with whatever team chooses him, and an attitude that sharp is very tough to come by.
In terms of his contributions to The Giants, Cushing has a prototype build and attitude of a strong side linebacker. The New York Giants have lacked a linebacker with a true mean streak for years. More than any set of physical skills, they need a linebacker who hates the team across from him and wants to give his heart and soul to the game. Without question, both Matthews and Cushing give their heart and soul to the game.