Mark Herzlich has faced and overcome adversity before. The leadership, confidence and communication skills that he's exhibiting are three signs why he is ready to win the starting middle linebacker role.
Herzlich's two measly starts last season were largely justified because Michael Boley was being paid $4 million to start and Chase Blackburn simply overachieved, but they're both gone and the position is now Herzlich's to lose this year.
Even though newly acquired Dan Connor is returning to the familiar 4-3 defense that he was a part of with the Carolina Panthers before spending last year in a 3-4 with Dallas, Herzlich's leadership is overshadowing Connor's veteran presence.
It's catching the attention of defensive coordinator Perry Fewell.
“(He has been) very commanding,” Fewell said. “He’s taken a leadership role out there and I think he has some good respect from his teammates in some of the things he’s done in the OTAs. Obviously, we want to find out what happens when the pads come on.”
Fellow third-year guys Spencer Paysinger and Jacquian Williams won't lose out on the starting job as a lack of effort, but Herzlich appears to be gaining more vocal command and respect in the locker room and on the field.
Despite Keith Rivers re-signing with the team this offseason, he isn't a major threat to win the starting job either.
Rivers missed five games last year because of hamstring issues, and has shown an inability to stay on the field throughout his whole career, never playing a full 16-game season.
While long shots often pay off the most, don't count on Kyle Bosworth, Aaron Curry, Jake Muasau or Etienne Sabino to challenge for the starting role.
Herzlich lined up with the first team in OTAs and then again in minicamp.
The 25-year-old told New York Giants Senior Writer Michael Eisen that he is very confident about winning the middle linebacker job.
“I think it’s mine to secure,” Herzlich said today. “I don’t think anyone is handing anybody anything, but I feel like if I work hard and play well, then I have a good shot at hopefully making a difference for the team.”
The speed and timeliness of Big Blue's defense in OTAs and minicamp so far has been a direct result of Herzlich's confidence on the field and in the classroom.
“It not only built my confidence in my communication skills getting together with the ones,” Herzlich said, “but built confidence among the other guys playing with the ones that I can lead the defense and be vocal and get everybody lined up and play fast.”
Communication just comes naturally with being a leader, as well as being confident.
Couple these traits with the talent, youth and potential that Herzlich has, and the starting role is all but his.