Camp preview: Linebackers

July, 23, 2013
7/23/13
9:00
AM ET
As training camp approaches, we're counting down to camp by taking a look at the Giants, position by position.

Position: Linebacker.

Projected starters: OLB Jacquian Williams, MLB Mark Herzlich, OLB Keith Rivers.

Projected reserves: MLB Dan Connor, OLB Spencer Paysinger, LB Aaron Curry, LB Jake Muasau, LB Kyle Bosworth, LB Etienne Sabino.

New faces: Connor, Curry, Bosworth, Sabino.

Going, going, gone: Michael Boley, Chase Blackburn.

Player to watch: Williams. He took things slowly in OTAs and minicamp with a PCL injury suffered from last season. If he can remain healthy this season, Williams could emerge as the team's most important linebacker. He is capable of playing all three downs and being the linebacker used by Perry Fewell in passing situations alongside a third safety/defensive back that could potentially be Ryan Mundy, Cooper Taylor or Terrell Thomas. Rivers is capable of doing the same but the Giants have always liked Williams' speed and ability to cover tight ends. The question is Williams' health and if he can show his potential over a full season in a starting role. If Williams misses any time due to injury, Rivers' importance only increases that much more. And the team is counting on Rivers this season already. Paysinger, who worked with the starters in the offseason, is a dark horse. Any time Williams misses means more time for Paysinger.

Potential strength: Youth and speed. The Giants lost a lot of experience this offseason when they released Boley and Blackburn left in free agency. And Mathias Kiwanuka is moving back to defensive end. But they should be a quicker unit with Williams and Rivers playing more snaps. The Giants also are confident Herzlich or Connor can handle the middle linebacker duties Blackburn had last season. If Curry shows any of the potential that made him the fourth overall pick in the draft in 2009, Jerry Reese will have a steal.

Potential weakness: Experience and health. Boley and Blackburn helped the Giants win a Super Bowl just two years ago. Both were an extension of Fewell on the field. The Giants lost a lot of starting experience. Also, health is a major factor with the Giants linebackers. Williams missed six games and Rivers missed five last season due to injuries. Those two are going to be key to whether the Giants' linebackers have a successful season. But if they miss any time, Paysinger and Curry will have to step in. And there's the unknown at middle linebacker as well.

Wild card: Herzlich. He enters camp as the starter at middle linebacker and he'll have to hold off Connor and possibly Curry as well. He has impressed coaches thus far with his handle on the defense and poise in the huddle. While the middle linebacker may play two downs and then come out on passing situations, Herzlich has the potential to be a factor against the run –- an area the Giants have put great emphasis on this offseason.

Let us know what your thoughts are on the linebackers entering camp.
Ohm Youngmisuk has covered the Giants, Jets and the NFL since 2006. Prior to that, he covered the Nets, Knicks and the NBA for nearly a decade. He joined ESPNNewYork.com after working at the New York Daily News for almost 12 years and is a graduate of Michigan State University.
Follow him on Twitter »  Ohm's chat archive »

SPONSORED HEADLINES

Comments

Use a Facebook account to add a comment, subject to Facebook's Terms of Service and Privacy Policy. Your Facebook name, photo & other personal information you make public on Facebook will appear with your comment, and may be used on ESPN's media platforms. Learn more.