Monday, February 7, 2011
Final report card: Linebackers
By Ohm Youngmisuk
We’re taking a look back and delivering our final grades for the 2010 season. We will be grading position by position and final season awards and accolades such as MVPs and Most Improved in the Giants blog over the next few weeks.
Perhaps the biggest question surrounding the Giants entering the season was whether the Giants could replace Antonio Pierce. The linebackers were solid but not spectacular as defensive coordinator Perry Fewell often opted to use two linebackers while having three safeties on the field.
Jonathan Goffwas soild and probably exceeded the expectations of many. He started every game, finishing with 80 tackles, one sack and one fumble recovery. He relayed Fewell's calls in the huddle for a unit that finished eighth against the run in the NFL.
Keith Bulluck, the man the Giants signed to potentially be Pierce’s replacement at middle linebacker, returned from knee surgery to play in 13 games. But he was switched to outside linebacker near the end of camp and wasn’t used as much throughout the season as he would’ve liked. A toe injury slowed him down and he might’ve needed the year to regain the form that made him a fixture in the Titans defense for 10 years. He did have two interceptions.
Michael Boleyhad 86 tackles, one sack and one bone-crushing hit on Tony Romo. But he didn’t really make the kind of impact the Giants likely envisioned from their most athletic linebacker. Boley did play hurt, revealing last weekend that he recently underwent shoulder surgery.
Fewell utilized defensive end Mathias Kiwanukaat outside linebacker at times before Kiwanuka suffered a season-ending neck injury. Fewell missed Kiwanuka's versatility.
Clint Sintimwas mostly a special teams contributor before tearing his ACL late in the season and rookie Phillip Dillardwas largely inactive most of the season.
2011 FORECAST: GM Jerry Reese will likely look to improve this unit through the draft or free agency.
Bulluck’s contract is up and he said he wants to return but only with a larger role as he wants to be an every-down linebacker.
Goff proved he can be a steady starter. The Giants need to get more from Boley, who remains their most talented linebacker. Boley said he is recovering fine from the surgery.
Dillard and Sintim will have to prove themselves in training camp. Linebackers Chase Blackburnand Gerris Wilkinson–- both key special teams contributors –- will be looking for new contracts as well.