New York Giants: Can 6th Round Pick Greg Jones Contribute at Linebacker in 2011?

Jeff Shull@Jeff_ShullAnalyst IJune 30, 2011

EVANSTON, IL - OCTOBER 23: Greg Jones #53 of the Michigan State Spartans awaits the start of play against the Northwestern Wildcats at Ryan Field on October 23, 2010 in Evanston, Illinois. Michigan State defeated Northwestern 35-27. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

This topic is probably the biggest that separates all New York Giants fans: what should the Giants do about their linebacker situation?

Your decision on that point almost certainly hinges on whether or not you feel the linebackers did a good job last year. I, for one, do believe that the Giants linebackers were an incredibly underrated group and should get more credit than they are given.

The Giants had the seventh-best defense in the NFL, as well as the fifth best run defense. You don't have a good run defense without good linebackers, it just doesn't happen.

No matter how great your defensive line is, and the Giants have one of the best, you still need your linebackers to step up and make plays.

Despite that the unit did not create very many turnovers, they were a shore tackling group who rarely got beat.

One thing you could say is that Jonathan Goff and Keith Bulluck were not great pass defenders. I'll buy that, but it also wasn't really something they were called upon to do very often.

In fact, Bulluck was taken out for pass defenses in favor of backup safety Deon Grant.

Goff has been a popular topic of ridicule this off season, which I can't figure out why. The only thing people ever point to is the fact that he didn't get 100 tackles.

Tackles are the most overrated stat in football.

I had to bold face that so you can grasp it. Tackles are purely a stat based on not only the talent around you, but what offenses do against you.

The Giants had a great run defense, so people avoided running the ball on them. Not only that, but the guys in front of the linebackers had a ton of tackles. Justin Tuck led all defensive ends with 79 tackles, and Barry Cofield was sixth among DTs in tackles.

I'd like to give a shout out to Giants Football Blog, run by John Fennelly. He wrote an article yesterday dispelling the rumors that the Giants are going to make a run at Bills linebacker Paul Posluszny.

People are enamored by Posluszny's tackle stats; he was third in the NFL with 151 total tackles. That number doesn't tell the whole story.

The Bills were dead last in rush defense and teams ran on them all day long. They were run on 571 times compared to just 389 times for the Giants.

Fennelly points out that 60 percent of running plays are up the middle, meaning Posluszny had 342 chances at a run his way and Goff had 233.

Now, I'm not trying to take away from the season that Posluszny had, I'm just trying to put it in perspective that Goff is not a terrible as people have made him out to be.

He could get better against the pass, and given that he is only in his second year as a starter one can make the assumption that he will get better.

Goff is a smart kid.

So what am I getting at? My point is that although the Giants drafted Greg Jones in the sixth round, he will likely only crack the starting lineup as the team's strong side linebacker.

The Giants are comfortable with Goff as the middle man.

The knock against Greg Jones is that he doesn't have the size necessary to play linebacker in the NFL. I guess nobody told London Fletcher that size makes a difference.

Jones is using Fletcher, among others, as motivation to prove people wrong. If you remember, I wrote after the 2011 NFL Draft that I believe Jones will win the starting SAM linebacker job in training camp.

Though he played middle in college, he did line up on the outside from time to time—especially in his junior season when he had nine sacks (nine...from a linebacker?!).

This is only based on the assumption that the Giants don't find a solution in free agency. Although Bulluck played well last year at times, he has said he won't come back in the same limited role, so the Giants might be looking for a free agent name to fill the void. 

If Jones ends up as the starter it will only be because he absolutely earned it in training camp, which could be a tough task. Mathias Kiwanuka is a free agent, but if the Giants bring him back it could be to play outside linebacker again, which he's done in the past.

The Giants switched him to linebacker in 2007 and until he broke his leg, he was playing very well. He made the switch back to defensive end in 2008 and 2009, but was expected to play all over the front seven for Perry Fewell in 2010.

A neck injury caused him to miss most of the season, so he was not able to showcase his versatility.

So if you're asking me if Jones has a chance to contribute I would say absolutely yes, but it depends on several factors falling in to place.


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