New York Giants: Barrett Ruud and 6 Linebackers to Boost Perry Fewell's Defense
The New York Giants have a proud tradition of great linebackers. Names like Huff, Carson, Taylor, Banks and Armstead are synonymous with the ferocious defenses which helped shape the enduring image of the franchise.
In recent seasons the Big Blue defense has been hindered by poor play from the linebackers. A lack of big plays in either run support, pass coverage or quarterback pressure has placed an unreasonable burden on the defensive line and secondary to carry the unit.
While the Giants defense enjoyed a creditable season in 2010, the linebackers' inability to chip in with plays when it mattered the most remained a constant source of frustration.
With the end of the lockout seemingly in sight and free agency just around the corner, head coach Tom Coughlin and general manager Jerry Reese should give some serious thought to upgrading arguably the team's biggest weakness.
Here are six free agent linebackers who could help coordinator Perry Fewell fashion a more complete defense for the 2011 season.
6. Stephen Tulloch Tennessee Titans
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After leading the Tennessee Titans in tackles for 2010, mike linebacker Stephen Tulloch is ready to test the free agent market.
The 26-year old logged 160 tackles last season. Although Tulloch is sometimes criticised for making a lot of his tackles after a play has already gained decent yards, he is an active presence in the middle of a 4-3 defense who always makes and effort to be around the ball.
Tulloch is a decent pass defender having played in a zone system featuring coverages similar to those favoured by Perry Fewell.
The Ginats would have to fend off interest from the Detroit Lions if they were to seriously covet Tulloch.
5. Ben Leber Minnesota Vikings
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With 24 career sacks and 12 career forced fumbles Ben Leber offers some of the big play capability the Giants' linebacking corps is sorely lacking.
Leber's future in Minnesota is far from certain and a player of his experience and leadership would be a useful addition. At 32 he is approaching the twilight of his career. But a dependable veteran presence in the linebacker trio could be invaluable.
Leber would likely offer more production than last season's veteran pickup Keith Bulluck. Protected by the Giants' aggressive front four, Leber would post some impressive numbers.
4. Barrett Ruud Tampa Bay Buccaneers
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28-year old Barrett Ruud is a cerebral player who could immediately step into a leadership role on the Giants' defense. A savvy player, Ruud is able to comfortably handle the responsibility of calling the defensive signals.
Ruud has a good understanding of cover-2 concepts which would help him fit easily into Perry Fewell's defensive structure. He uses speed and smarts to put himself in the best position to make plays and would instantly upgrade the Giants' coverage of the underneath zones.
The Buccaneers may well make a big effort to retain Ruud but keeping hold of fellow linebacker Quincy Black is also a priority. If the Bucs' linger on Ruud, the Giants should consider pouncing.
3. Rocky McIntosh Washington Redskins
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After struggling to make a smooth transition to the Redskins' new 3-4 defense, Rocky McIntosh could be allowed to seek out a return to a 4-3 defense in 2011.
The 6'2" 242 pound McIntosh is an energetic and productive linebacker and a natural fit in a 4-3 front. With Michael Boley largely inconsistent and Clint Sintim so far failing to make the grade, the Giants could use an impact player at outside linebacker.
Perry Fewell should have no problem finding ways to take advantage of McIntosh's skill set. He has good speed and a nose for the ball. McIntosh's decent blitz skills can be a factor in various sub packages and would make him a nice weapon for the New York defense.
2. Paul Posluszny Buffalo Bills
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Familiar with defensive coordinator Perry Fewell, Paul Posluszny is a player the Giants could show some genuine interest in. Pro Football Weekly has reported that Big Blue could look to add the former Penn State standout to the heart of their defense.
Posluszny is a capable pass defender and is well versed in Perry Fewell's style of defense. He has increased his tackle output every season he has been in the league, topping the 100 mark for the first time in 2010.
Posluszny has expressed a desire to remain in Buffalo, but the chance to again work under Fewell and become the focal point in a 4-3 defense, could prove too great a temptation to resist.
1. Clint Session Indianapolis Colts
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The Indianapolis Colts may make see re-signing Session as a priority, but if not, the G-Men should swoop for the promising fifth year player.
Session is comfortable in the types of zone coverages the Giants utilise. The 6'0" 235 pounder has the speed and strength to be a dangerous sideline to sideline playmaker for the Giants. Session is a big hitter who could excel in a more aggressive system.
He is capable of playing both outside linebacker spots and would provide the defense with a versatile skill set. His lack of size and experiences on the Colts' porous rush defense may make it seem as though he could be a liability against the run.
But playing behind a more physically dominant line would allow Session to realise his true potential. He would be well worth the gamble and investment from the Giants.
Few can question that the New York Giants posses the talent to be perennial playoff contenders. In order to turn this perception into a reality, the team needs more big plays on both side of the ball. Securing more dynamic linebackers would be a positive step in the right direction.