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Giants Face Tough Decisions at Linebacker, Does McClain Have The Answers?

When the New York Giants signed Jameel McClain during free agency this past spring, predictions swirled of the possibilities a second veteran presence could bring to the team’s linebacking core.

Now, it seems McClain may have to take on an even bigger leadership role for the Giants during training this summer, with reports that starting middle linebacker Jon Beason is out for the next 12 weeks due to a foot injury.

While McClain, who previously spent six seasons with the Baltimore Ravens, has experience at both the inside and outside linebacker positions, the Giants planned to use him mainly as a strongside replacement for Keith Rivers.

Reports from OTA’s praised McClain for his fairly painless transition into Perry Fewell’s defensive scheme, and the consistency he seemed to show working alongside both Beason and Spencer Paysinger.

With Beason currently out of the mix, the question remains where McClain will fit for the duration of preseason practices.   The Giants’ depth chart at linebacker, overall, is thin on experience, but the middle linebacker position is exceptionally lacking in productive depth.

With Mark Herzlich listed as the guy under Beason, the team may need to look in a different direction to replace the starter for the time being. Herzlich, who started at middle linebacker in the first few games last season, failed to make an impact in the position, and was quickly replaced when Beason was acquired in early October.

Another name on the roster is rookie Devon Kennard.   Kennard, who was reported to have taken over in the middle right after Beason was carted off the field, is listed as a strongside linebacker.

However, the Giants might be smart to let the fifth-round pick out of USC take reps with the first team in the middle, while allowing McClain to keep the strongside on lock. With the time table on Beason’s injury running right into the start of the regular season, Kennard could realistically have five preseason games under his belt before the veteran returns.

The team is now left with serious decisions to make. Do they keep McClain on the strong side, and continue to prepare him for what will (most likely) be his role for the rest of the season?

Or do they allow him to temporarily replace Beason in the middle?   In either case, can McClain step into the leadership spot left open by Beason gracefully?

With mini camp set to start Tuesday, the answers to these questions are not too far away.

Alexis Celluro | Featured Columnist