Dan Connor signed a one-year deal with the New York Giants earlier this offseason. Once touted as a steal in the 2008 NFL Draft, Connor’s NFL success has been marginal due to him constantly being behind Pro Bowl quality linebackers such as Sean Lee and Jon Beason.
However, GM Jerry Reese’s shocking neglect of the linebacker position in the 2013 NFL Draft can be interpreted as a vote of confidence in Connor’s ability to play a major role in the middle of the Giants’ defense.
Connor’s best season came in 2011—a span of 15 games with the Carolina Panthers that saw him accumulate 75 total tackles. But, in 2012—his lone season with the Dallas Cowboys—Connor wasn’t as much of a factor. It was with Dallas that Connor totaled a mere 56-combined tackles.
The concern over Connor’s lack of performance in 2012 worsens when you consider the fact that Lee—the Cowboys’ best linebacker other than DeMarcus Ware—was on injured reserve for a large portion of the 2012 season. But Reese clearly thinks that Connor can be an important factor in New York’s system.
The importance of Connor is amplified when you look at how little previous linebacker signings have produced like Keith Rivers or Keith Bulluck for example. With a linebacker depth chart that is thin, Connor has the opportunity to prove that he is capable of being a starting linebacker in the NFL.
The Giants’ plans for Connor are unspoken, but it is clear that it is their intent to make him a large part of their defensive identity in 2013. The linebacker has shown potential, but never gotten an opportunity where he could truly be the undisputed leader of a defense’s interior.
Needless to say, the pressure will be on Connor—and the other Giants linebackers—to produce in 2013. If they don’t then they could be the Giants’ roster casualties going into the 2014 offseason.