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Saturday, November 19, 2011
A big chance for Giants' young LBs

By Dan Graziano

The New York Giants may have to  play Sunday night's game against the Eagles in Philadelphia without linebacker Michael Boley, who's been a vital veteran playmaker on their defense all year. Boley has a hamstring injury, has not been able to practice this week and is officially listed as doubtful for the game. Should he miss the game, the Giants will look to someone -- possibly everyone -- from their group of four rookie linebackers to fill in for him. Ohm Youngmisuk has the story on ESPNNewYork.com:
The Giants have spent the week prepping their rookie linebackers for more playing time, which they say will help. Fewell also says he will have a veteran wear the helmet with a headset to relay plays into the huddle so that the rookies won't be overloaded.

Boley has had the headset in his helmet all year as he's been charged with relaying the defensive calls in place of injured middle linebacker Jonathan Goff. The only remaining veteran in the linebacking corps is Mathias Kiwanuka, who plays defensive end on passing downs and likely has enough about which to worry. So I wonder if the veteran who gets the headset might be a safety. The Giants have been successfully mixing and matching since the early part of training camp and believe they can figure it out.

But someone still has to play, and while rookies Greg Jones, Spencer Paysinger and Jacquian Williams have seen some playing time this year, the Giants are cognizant of not trying to give them too much responsibility too quickly. That's why they're likely to rotate snaps along with fellow rookie Mark Herzlich, whose playing time so far this year has come entirely on special teams.
If Herzlich plays at linebacker, it would be another milestone moment in his comeback from Ewing's sarcoma, a rare bone cancer he beat after missing all of the 2009 season at BC. "They are rotating a lot of guys in right now," Herzlich said. "I'm eager. It is all about getting that one shot and seizing it. Whenever that occurs for me -- I'm confident that will occur at some point -- I will be ready."

Herzlich was a dominating college player in 2008 before his illness, and the Giants signed him as an undrafted rookie in the hopes that he might someday be able to flash that ability again once he was back to full strength. It appears that Boley's injury might offer Herzlich a chance to show what he's got sooner rather than later. It's been a next-man-up kind of year for the Giants, and at 6-3 and with a depleted Eagles team coming to town Sunday night, there's no reason for them to think one or more of their rookies can't continue the trend.