Archive for the ‘linebacker’ Category

Free Agency Eve

February 28, 2008

Free agency begins tonight. Do not try to predict what Reese will do. If one uses last year as a single datapoint, he will be quieter than we would like. But drawing conclusions from one datapoint is ridiculous. There could be one particular player who the Giants rate much higher than others, in which case Reese gets active in a hurry. We’ll put it another way- the over/under number for high ticket free agents the Giants entertain will be 1, and the over/under number for high ticket free agents the Giants sign will be 0.5. Here is a quick summary of excerpted positions from packersnews.com which are more relevant to the Giants-

Linebackers: Lance Briggs has been linked to San Francisco and Washington after spending a season wallowing under the franchise tag in Chicago. He seems best suited to play outside linebacker in a 4-3 defensive scheme, and at 27, he will strike it rich. … Terrell Suggs (Baltimore), a hybrid linebacker/end, and Karlos Dansby (Arizona) have been franchised. … The price for converted end Calvin Pace (Arizona) jumped after his breakout season in 2007, but the Cardinals reportedly want to retain the five-year veteran. Bargain basement: Boss Bailey (Detroit), Kawika Mitchell (N.Y. Giants), Brandon Chillar (St. Louis), DeMorrio Williams (Atlanta), Rosevelt Colvin (New England, released).

Cornerbacks: New Orleans reportedly is the front-runner to land Asante Samuel (New England), the 27-year-old cover king who is considered the top free agent in this year’s class. The Jets, Tampa Bay and Philadelphia also have been linked to Samuel, who is expected to get a contract averaging $10 million or more per year. … Nnamdi Asomugha (Oakland) and Marcus Trufant (Seattle) were franchised, leaving Drayton Florence — who lost his starting job in San Diego last season to Antonio Cromartie — as the next best option. Question mark: Will Brian Kelly (Tampa Bay) regret paying $435,000 to buy out the final year of a contract that would have paid him $3.2 million in base salary next season? Bargain basement: Ty Law (Kansas City, reportedly to be released), Randall Gay (New England), Travis Fisher (Detroit), Jacques Reeves (Dallas).

Safeties: Gibril Wilson will test the market. Philadelphia and Denver have been reported as possible destinations. Dallas placed the franchise tag on Ken Hamlin. Question mark: How will season-ending injuries to Yeremiah Bell (Miami) and Madieu Williams (Cincinnati) affect their value? Bargain basement: Eugene Wilson (New England), Will Demps (Houston), Marquand Manuel (Carolina), Chris Crocker (Atlanta).

I was going to include a recap of Left Tackle, but when I read it, it made me wince. They had Flozell Adams at 32 leading the parade… between his age and his stature as a penalty offender on the order of Luke Petitgout, I would be surprised to see Reese go for him.. and any other high priced name in this category. This leaves us with Safety, CB, and LB as the only places where we might be active. The only other item of note will be Derrick Ward, who is expected to hit the free agent market tomorrow.

Linebacker- Staple or Buggy Whip?

February 21, 2008

Bill Parcells: “I like linebackers. I collect ’em. You can’t have too many good ones.” He said that in the 1980s, when guys like Byron Hunt, Pepper Johnson and Andy Headen could have started for many other teams but were backups with the Giants. The game has evolved, with the NFL making the rules much harder for pass defenses. Passing statistics are inflated today because the rules make covering a receiver more difficult. Teams are drafting wide receivers to take advantage of the changes. And in turn, these same teams are more aggressive in going after cornerbacks in order to reply to the shift. Ernie Accorsi responded to this metamorphosis by going after defensive ends more aggressively so that quarterbacks could be disrupted on a good pass rush.

But what about linebacking? Is it a lost art, a position undergoing corporate downsizing from 3 to 2 as teams use 4 linemen, 5 defensive backs, with 2 LBs left over? Is there so much passing that you do not need LBs except on 1st down? In the past six seasons, there has been a tendency for slightly more passing attempts per game, but it is not significant enough to be a trend. When teams pass too much, they get one-dimensional and opposing defenses adjust and force those teams to balance with more run again. And considering that LBs are still needed for TEs and RBs in pass coverage, the role of these players is not going away by any stretch.

Giants Draft Choices in Round #1, Round #2
1998 S, WR
1999 OL, RB
2000 RB, DL
2001 CB
2002 TE, WR
2003 DL, DL
2004 QB, OL
2005 QB*,CB
2006 DL, WR
2007 CB, WR

There is only one position the Giants ignored with their first and/or second pick during this 10-year period … linebacker. (You have to go back to 1991, when the Giants picked Kanavis McGhee in the second round.) And it has been 24 years since the Giants drafted a LB #1: Carl Banks in 1984. The Giants have been extremely fortunate in recent years to anchor their LBs with players like 8th-rounder Jessie Armstead and free agents like Mike Barrow and Antonio Pierce. Mathias Kiwanuka was moved to LB because of need. Jerry Reese has been fabulous, but it is not rocket science to know that Kiwanuka moves better north (toward the QB) than south (to the TE). Kiwanuka is an impact lineman. He and Tuck will aid in the transition of Michael Strahan’s retirement. Accorsi might have been right to design a team that puts heat on the QB, gets talent on the corners, and plugs up with patchwork LBs, but you cannot totally neglect this position either. Since the NFL is a copycat league, you would expect pass rushing ends to go up in value. Does the NFL de-emphasize linebacking because of Accorsi’s actions? At this point it would appear that a high pick at (strongside) LB better be fast enough to blitz the QB or cover a TE to pay off the investment in today’s world of the pass.