Adam Hunger/Associated Press
There is good news for Giants fans: New head coach Ben McAdoo is apparently a fan of linebackers.
That’s right. In an interview with Steve Serby of the New York Post, McAdoo mentioned his favorite team growing up was the Pittsburgh Steelers. Serby then asked him who his favorite players were.
The first part of his answer? “I liked the outside linebackers. I liked Greg Lloyd and I liked Kevin Greene, who I had a chance to coach with [at Green Bay].”
Say what you want about McAdoo’s fashion sense—or lack thereof. When it comes to football sense, apparently McAdoo has an appreciation for the men in the middle of the defense. They play positions that, for whatever the reason, the Giants have refused to address in the first two days of the draft since Jerry Reese became the general manger in 2007.
(Yes, Clint Sintim was drafted in the second round of 2009, but he came from a 3-4 defensive scheme in college and wasn’t able to make the conversion to a 4-3 outside linebacker with the Giants.)
For the most part, the Giants have cut corners at this position, and it shows in the defense’s play.
Among the approaches they’ve taken to fill this still-important role includes signing undrafted rookie free agents (Mark Herzlich, Uani Unga), claiming guys off waivers (Jasper Brinkley) and signing undrafted free agents (J.T. Thomas and Jonathan Casillas). The Giants also acquired Jon Beason via a midseason trade to complement Devon Kennard, a fifth-round draft pick from 2014.
So what do they have to show for their cutting corners at the linebacker position?
Kennard, whose stock might have fallen due to his injury history, has yet to make it through 16 games.
Beason, the best of the bunch when healthy, can’t stay healthy.
Brinkley showed some promise, but he’s on the wrong side of 30 and might not be the long-term solution.
Herzlich has been a stellar comeback story and a model citizen in the community, but he is more of a special teams player than a starter.
The same could be said of Unga. Despite a strong start to his first NFL campaign, he showed the cracks in his game.
The jury is still out on Casillas and Thomas, two athletic linebackers who didn’t make many impact plays. But to be fair, each of them also dealt with injuries.
The bottom line is the bandage approach the Giants have taken at linebacker isn’t working and hasn’t since the days of undrafted free agents Chase Blackburn and Antonio Pierce.
If McAdoo is a fan of linebackers, let’s hope that this trend of trying to get value on Day 3 of the draft stops in 2016.