by Adam Nardelli | NY Giants Rush Contributor
No Stardom, No Problem: Getting to Know the Other Guys
As most Giants fans know, the Giants organization has never been known to make big moves in free agency bringing in the biggest names available. Aside from Shane Vereen, who is not a star but a relatively well-known commodity around the NFL, the Giants did nothing to add stardom during day one of free agency.
They did however do something more important. They added depth with the signings of Linebackers J.T. Thomas and Jonathan Cassillas.
Today’s NFL is becoming more and more surrounded around the notion of next man up. With the moderately new 2011 Collective Bargaining Agreement the amount of football contact in the off-season has been noticeably reduced. Shoulder pads and helmets are barely seen from the time the season is over until training camp in July.
As a result, NFL players have trouble preparing their bodies for the rigors of the regular season and teams need to be more prepared than ever in being able to replace their starters who get injured. The Giants know this problem more than anyone, having 26 players on Injured Reserve in 2014, the most in the NFL.
So for that I applaud the rather quiet signings of J.T. Thomas, Jonathan Casillas. Thomas, who will be 27 years old when the season starts and is going into his fifth year, was mostly used as a backup during his stint in Jacksonville. However, due to an injury to Paul Posluszny, Thomas was roped into starting ten games in 2014. He sure made the best of his opportunity racking up 84 tackles, 2 interceptions, and 2 forced fumbles.
According to ESPN’s Dan Graziano, a reporter who knows the Giants and their needs more than just about anybody, Thomas has strong versatility at the linebacker position, referring to him as a linebacker that can play inside or outside and is also good in coverage.
With his experience at middle linebacker, at minimum Thomas is a quality back-up to Jon Beason who has not been able to shake the injury bug. Even more, with Jameel McClain only having one year left on his contract, Thomas has shown he can provide comparatively similar production if the Giants want to move McClain’s contract off their books.
Jonathan Cassilas, similar to Thomas, adds experience and reliability to the linebacker core. Although Thomas might have more versatility at linebacker, the seven year veteran Casillas has worked more exclusively at the weak-side linebacker spot, making him a possible replacement for Jacquian Williams.
What Thomas does not have, however, that Casillas does is two Super Bowl rings. Casillas has experience coming from two winning cultures with the Saints and the New England Patriots.