Boley, Once a Question Mark, Quickly Becoming a Sure Thing

Max WillensCorrespondent IOctober 5, 2009

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - 2009:  Michael Boley of the New York Giants poses for his 2009 NFL headshot at photo day in East Rutherford, New Jersey.  (Photo by NFL Photos)

A lot has gone wrong for the Giants' defense this season.

That might seem like a strange thing to say about a unit that currently ranks first in yards allowed and sixth in points given up, but the evidence is right there on the injury reports.

Two of Jerry Reese's biggest acquisitions, Chris Canty and Rocky Bernard, have mostly been stuck on the trainer's table.

Same goes for two of their top three cornerbacks, Aaron Ross and Kevin Dockery.

Worst of all, the jewel of Giants' pass defense, Kenny Phillips, recently underwent season-ending surgery on his knee.

Until about three weeks ago, Michael Boley was part of this problem too. The weakside linebacker that Jerry Reese acquired from the Atlanta Falcons was a no-show throughout training camp, recovering from hip surgery.

The prospect of Boley taking the field after barely practicing with his teammates wasn't exactly exciting, even if it was inevitable; Boley's salary for this year alone is higher than the combined wages of his three backups (Chase Blackburn, Bryan Kehl, and Gerris Wilkinson).

But in the three games he's started, Boley has looked like the team's best free agent signing. He is currently third on the team in tackles, behind only free safety Michael Johnson and tackling machine Antonio Pierce.

A lot of this production is the result of opponents targeting Boley, and it's easy to understand their thinking. Given his lack of practice time, offensive coordinators assume that his grip on the Giants' defensive playbook is tenuous.

But Boley has made opponents pay for their tactics with his athleticism and tackling. Last week against Kansas City, the Chiefs tested Boley in coverage, and he showed himself up to the task. He broke up two passes, including one in the end zone where he was matched up against a wide receiver.  

It's fair to point out that the Chiefs' offense is a big mess, and the same can be said for the Bucs' O. The real tests, the reasons that Jerry Reese signed Boley in the first place, begin in two weeks.

The Giants will face the Saints, Cardinals, Eagles, and Chargers in consecutive weeks. All three teams spread the ball around through the air, and each has a variety of players who are especially dangerous in space.

But thanks to one of the defense's newest bright spots, that shouldn't be too much of a problem.