As rallying cries go, "Hey, we may not be so bad!" isn't an all-timer. But a little realism is OK, even in mid-August, and at this point that's about all the New York Giants' linebackers have. Per Ralph Vacchiano:
“I mean, it’s natural for fans to kind of fear the unknown,” Spencer Paysinger, currently one of the Giants’ starting outside linebackers, told the Daily News. “Obviously the Giants have a great legacy in terms of linebackers and this is kind of scary territory for them because they don’t have a big-name linebacker to come in and pretty much set the tone.
“But just a word to the public: We have some capable guys.”
Love it. I could see it as a new marketing slogan. "The 2013 New York Giants: We have some capable guys." Fans could get customized jerseys with the linebackers' numbers and the word "CAPABLE" across the back shoulders instead of the player's name. It'd be a thing, and if the Giants' linebacking corps were to end up having a big year, it'd be a fun running joke for years to come.
Truth is, though, linebacker is the most questionable position on the Giants' roster for good reason. They simply don't invest in it. As much time as they spend in nickel packages or three-safety looks, and because their defense is designed around the concept of generating a pass rush with the front four, it's not worth their top resources.
Of the seven linebackers addressed in Ralph's story, three were undrafted and another, Jacquian Williams, was a sixth-round pick. Dan Connor is a former third-round pick of the Carolina Panthers who came cheap as a free agent after a disappointing year with the Cowboys. Keith Rivers and Aaron Curry are both former top-10 overall picks who were on the market because their original teams (and, in the case of Curry, a second team) gave up on them.
So it's little surprise that there's not much about which to be fired up. And Paysinger's assessment is likely just fine. If the Giants can find three "capable" starting linebackers, then they'll be happy with that. It's all they really want out of the group. There's some upside potential, of course. Mark Herzlich was a brilliant college player before he was diagnosed with cancer. Curry was talked about as a possible top overall pick in his draft year. Williams was a valuable piece of the Super Bowl title team two years ago and has looked more than "capable" as a coverage linebacker when he's been healthy. But the Giants don't need their linebacking corps to carry on the great tradition of Giants linebackers of the past. The Giants defenses of the present are built on the line and the secondary. That's where they spend their money and their high draft picks, and those are the players who need to play like stars in order for the Giants to succeed. Any greatness they get out of the three guys in the middle of the defense is kind of a bonus.