John Fennelly, Lead WriterEvery year, we go through the same exercise when it comes to the Giants’ LB corp: Why doesn’t the team invest more in the position?
A legitimate argument if there ever was one. The last time the Giants drafted a LB in the first round was in 1984, when they selected Michigan State’s Carl Banks No. 3 overall.
Since the league expanded to 32 teams in 2002, the Giants have drafted only one LB higher than the third round (Clint Sintim – 2nd Round, 2009) and only 11 LBs overall. This year, the Giants selected USC’s Devon Kennard in the fifth round. He is the first LB chosen in the draft by the Giants since 2010 (Jacquian Williams Round 6).
The only other LB still on the roster besides Williams drafted by Jerry Reese is Zak DeOssie, who is predominantly a long snapper and special teamer.
Reese has augmented the unit over the years through free agency. His three starters were all procured via the open market. Spencer Paysinger was signed as a UDFA in 2010. Reese traded for MLB Jon Beason last October and them rewarded him with a five-year deal in March. Jameel McClain was a salary cap casualty in Baltimore who Reese pounced on before free agency began.
The plan this year at LB is pretty much the same as it has been the past few years. The base defense (4-3-4) will have Beason in the middle, Paysinger at SLB and McClain at WLB. The reserves will likely be Williams, Kennard, Mark Herzlich and possibly another UDFA Reese has picked up this offseason.
The truth of the matter is the Giants employ five DBs on over 50% of their defensive snaps. That means a LB takes a seat on the sidelines. Last year, Beason was the constant, playing nearly every snap while the others alternated. Paysinger was the LB with the second most playing time. That may change now that McClain is here.
Another wrinkle to the mix is the possible emergence of second-year safety Cooper Taylor, who is 6’4″ and weighs in now at 232 pounds.
You can see that he’s a much bigger human being right now,” Tom Coughlin said of Taylor. “He’s worked hard in the offseason, he’s stronger, he’s bigger, he’s in his second go-around so he has an excellent opportunity to contribute in a lot of ways.”
Taylor can be used as a swing safety or LB. With Will Hill gone, the Giants’ three safety set is in need of physical presence. Taylor can provide that – and possibly some depth/flexibility at LB.
From Jordan Raanan of the Star-Ledger:
The hope is that with his size and mobility, the Giants can find a use for his skills. It could be as an option in their three-safety look, in which Taylor would appear to be a solid fit to cover some of the league’s bigger tight ends.
“I definitely think that is one of my advantages as a safety. I’m taller,” Taylor said. “I’m able to match up a little bit better with those [tight ends] that are 6-6, 6-7 … that are glorified receivers now.
“That’s an advantage I have being a little bit taller, bigger than the normal-sized safety or defensive back that gets matched up on those guys regularly.”