Prior to the start of free agency, the Giants were left with holes all over the roster- including linebacker. After some careful spending, and some wise moves, the position has been upgraded thanks to the resigning of Jon Beason, and the addition of Jameel McClain.
Although McClain began last season on the PUP list for the Ravens because of a spinal cord contusion he suffered back in 2012, the 28-year old linebacker still manged to rack up 52 tackles in 10 games for Baltimore. McClain will likely begin the season as the Giants outside linebacker now that Keith Rivers has signed with Buffalo.
While both McClain and Beason are not seen as long-term options for the defense, their services are a big step forward from where New York was a year ago when Spencer Paysinger, Mark Herzlich, and Rivers were all expected to be major contributors.
With the NFL draft a little over a month away, the Giants still have holes they need to address, but Jerry Reese has never been a man to draft for need over talent.
Anthony Barr, OLB, UCLA:
The Giants have always enjoyed drafting hybrid defensive players, and Anthony Barr is just that. The 6-foot-5-inch, 255-pound linebacker ran the 40-yard dash at 4.45 at at UCLA’s Pro Day.
Barr is a great mix of size and speed, and could be used as an edge pass rusher in certain situations, similar to the way the Giants use Mathias Kiwanuka. The former Bruin racked up 10 sacks, and 20 tackles for a loss last season, and has the lateral quickness to make open field tackles outside the hash marks.
While Barr is not a finished product, he’ll have some time to develop thanks to the addition of McClain.
C.J. Mosley, ILB, Alabama:
“Whoever gets C.J. Mosley in the draft is going to be pretty damn lucky.”
High praise from Hall of Fame linebacker Dick Butkus, who raved about Mosley to USA Today Sports .
“Any 4-3 team that wants that talented middle linebacker is going to be really happy with him.”
The four-year linebacker for Alabama took home the Butkus Award last season after racking up 108 tackles, including nine for loss. While he didn’t register any sacks, the 6-2, 234-pound inside linebacker has proven to be an above average pass defender and run stopper.
While Mosley is not the biggest or fastest linebacker in this draft, his attitude, film study, and ability to cover tight ends make him an ideal asset for Perry Fewell’s system.
Khalil Mack, OLB, Buffalo:
Khalil Mack has gained a lot of steam heading into the final weeks before the draft, surpassing Anthony Barr as the top outside linebacker on some boards.
After totaling 100 tackles, 10.5 sacks, 3 interceptions, and 5 forced fumbles his senior year, Mack quickly became a projected first-round pick, and could very well be selected before the Giants can even get a whiff of him at pick No. 12.
The four-year starter didn’t miss any games due to injury throughout his college career, despite playing all over the field as a hybrid linebacker in Buffalo’s 3-4 schemes. Mack’s ability to get to the quarterback and create turnovers is reminiscent of Robert Quinn and Von Miller; two players any GM would love to have on their roster.
Stopping the run and getting to the quarterback is not an issue for Mack, but his pass coverage is where he’ll need some improving. The Giants, however, finished near the bottom of the league in sacks last season, so perhaps getting to the QB is greater need this draft than covering the receiver up the hash marks.
Kyle McMorrow | Featured Columnist