New York Giants Breakout Candidate: Mark Herzlich
If there is one thing the New York Giants have a lot of right now it is linebackers. There are currently ten players fighting for a spot at that position, although it is conceivable that one or two can make the team as defensive ends. However, one of the most intriguing names on the Giants roster is Mark Herzlich.
Herzlich was an All-American linebacker for Boston College and seemed destined to become an early round draft pick. Then, he found out he had Ewing’s Sarcoma, a form of bone cancer, in his leg. However, not even cancer could stop Herzlich from realizing his NFL dream. He beat the cancer and returned to the field for Boston College and entered the 2011 NFL Draft. No team was willing to take the risk on Herzlich in the draft but afterwards the New York Giants called and offered Herzlich a contract. He signed and the 6-4, 246 pound linebacker went to work and made the team.
There is no doubt that Herzlich is a feel-good story. He beat cancer and realized his dream. However, realizing his dream of playing in the NFL is not good enough for Herzlich, he wants to break camp with the Giants this summer as the starting middle linebacker, a position he says is his. “It’s mine for the taking,” Herzlich said. “I wish the best for everybody else, but it’s still a competition. I want the team to do well, and if it’s not the spot the coaches want me in, then that’s one thing. But the way I look at it is, there is a place that I can play and I don’t want anyone to take that away from me.”
Injuries decimated the Giants linebacking corps last season and Herzlich found himself starting in two games in the middle of the season. Herzlich recorded seven tackles in those two games before suffering a broken right ankle. Once again, Herzlich found himself fighting his way back. Now that the ankle is fully healed, Herzlich has set his sights on earning the starting middle linebacker spot.
Competition will be stiff. The Giants recently acquired Keith Rivers from the Cincinnati Bengals, re-signed Chase Blackburn, and have flirted with the idea of moving Michael Boley inside. There are also Jacquian Williams and Greg Jones, two linebackers the Giants think highly of and selected in the 2011 NFL Draft. However, it seems like whatever Mark Herzlich sets his mind to he seems to accomplish, something the Giants would love to see. Even if he doesn’t win the job outright out of camp he will see quite a bit of playing time as defensive coordinator Perry Fewell likes to keep personnel fresh and rotate players as much as possible while instituting different looks and schemes.
If Herzlich stays healthy there is no reason to doubt he will begin to make his mark felt on this team. Of all of the new faces, or returning faces, Herzlich could have the biggest impact on the defense this season in terms of increased production. A starting job is definitely in Herzlich’s future and the future could be as soon as this year. Given all that he has overcome, I’m not going to bet against him.