- Jane McManus, Reporter & Columnist, espnW.com
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EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- On Monday, Giants linebacker Dan Connor got reps with the first-team defense. By Tuesday, Connor and Mark Herzlich were officially in the running for the starting middle linebacker job.
“I think we’re pretty interchangeable as linebackers,” Connor said. “We both can do it. Who knows, we could be rotating through the season. Or he could do it and then I can do it later, or opposite.
“There are so many different options in the linebacker position. You get grinded out, you’re going to need guys to be able to spell you here and there through the game. It’s fun as a competition, with every single position. Especially the linebackers. There is a competition.”
Defensive coordinator Perry Fewell said both Connor and Herzlich, who has started at middle linebacker since OTAs, have impressed him during training camp.
“Both players are outstanding players in my opinion, and both bring different things to the table for us,” Fewell said. “We’ll work both combinations. For instance, the first play of the ballgame on Saturday, Mark did a great job of taking the guard on. He was very physical in the football game. He ran through the guard that he could have made the tackle. Dan did an outstanding job in taking on blocks. He shedded some blocks well. He made some plays. He did well in coverage. So I like the combination of both those guys in our defense and I’m happy that we have both of those guys.”
Connor has an interesting perspective on the Giants -- he's a Philadelphia native, and he played in Dallas before joining the Giants as a free agent in the offseason. “I’m not too well-liked back home,” he quipped.
The 27-year-old, who came out of Penn State in 2008, originally played for the Carolina Panthers. Now on his third team, he said there are similar expectations when it comes to advancing up the depth chart.
“Anyone that wants to earn a starting spot has to go out and make plays on game day,” Connor said. “You can work hard in practice, and that goes far. Coach (Tom) Coughlin really respects that, but it’s what you do when the lights are on that’s going to win or lose you your job. That’s always what it comes down to with any team I’ve been on.”