Bill Kostroun/Associated Press
In 2011, linebacker Mark Herzlich captured the imaginations of both cancer survivors and people everywhere by showing that it was very much possible to kick the deadly disease to the curb and take back your life.
Unfortunately for Herzlich, his quest to become a starting NFL linebacker appears to have bottomed out.
After showing flashes as a rookie in 2011, the undrafted free agent broke into the starting lineup after Chase Blackburn was injured.
Herzlich, who per Pro Football Focus (subscription required) played in 75 snaps on defense that year, suffered a broken ankle in his second start. While he was never placed on injured reserve, he didn’t play again the rest of that year.
In 2012, he competed with Blackburn, who wasn’t exactly fleet afoot. Blackburn held onto the job, largely due to his intelligence and feel for the position.
When Blackburn left the team in 2013 via free agency, Herzlich seemed to have the inside track on finally landing the starting job. However, he lost it in training camp to Dan Connor, a free agent signed by the Giants that offseason.
When Connor landed on injured reserve after the first week of the 2013 season, the door was again open for Herzlich to make the starting job his.
It was not meant to be for the former Boston College standout, who per PFF, earned negative grades in three of the four games in which he received significant snaps on defense.
That performance resulted in the Giants making a rare in-season trade to acquire Jon Beason from the Carolina Panthers in exchange for a seventh-round draft pick.
Herzlich, meanwhile, was reduced to special teams and goal-line duties, receiving no more than 10 snaps per game with the defense.
To his credit, Herzlich took his demotion well, becoming a force on special teams. However, when you’re limited in what you can bring to the party, all it takes is for someone who can do more than you can and your roster chance shrinks.
That’s what could happen with Herzlich if rookies Devon Kennard, the team’s fifth-round draft pick, and Dan Fox, an undrafted free agent, both have strong camps.
Kennard, who has worked both at outside and inside linebacker, has already drawn praise from the coaches, as has Fox.
It’s also a very telling sign that following the broken foot suffered by Beason during OTAs, Herzlich’s name hasn’t come up in discussions about how the coaches will address the middle linebacker position.
Rather than turn to Herzlich, who’s been in defensive coordinator Perry Fewell’s system since 2011, they’ll be looking at Jameel McClain, who signed as a free agent this winter to fill in for Beason.
Herzlich can still make this team, but like everyone else who’s on the bubble, it’s probably going to take injuries to those in front of him on the depth chart for it to happen.