Mark Herzlich was one of the best linebacker prospects in the nation when he was at Boston College. However, a bout with Ewing’s sarcoma, a rare bone cancer, put a hold on his football career causing him to miss the entire 2009 season. He returned to the field in 2010 and, while he performed at a high level, recording 65 tackles and four interceptions, many NFL teams were scared away by his health.
The New York Giants saw the potential in Herzlich and when he went undrafted in the 2011 NFL Draft the Giants signed him as an undrafted free agent. There was a lot of fanfare surrounding the deal, much of it surrounding Herzlich as a feel-good story. However, the Giants saw Herzlich’s potential as a football player.
Herzlich’s first season was riddled with injuries and he recorded only 12 tackles in 11 games in 2011. When he was on the field there were flashes of the player Herzlich could become but the consistency just wasn’t there. As rookie only a year removed from cancer, Herzlich’s first season was a promising one even if the numbers weren’t there.
Heading into 2012, there was an expectation that Herzlich would take the next step. Health was not an issue as he appeared in 16 games and recorded 30 tackles but he never took the next step and affirmed himself as the starting middle linebacker despite an unsettled situation at the position throughout the year.
This season, Herzlich is entering training camp coming off of a strong spring. The coaching staff fully expects him to take a hold of the starting middle linebacker job in training camp and to hold it the entire season. The Giants did bring in an insurance policy in Dan Connor but he has had some legal troubles off the field after being arrested for carrying a switchblade in his carry-on bag at a Philadelphia airport.
Everything is pointing in Herzlich’s direction to take a hold of the position and to realize the potential he showed in college. He needs to take hold of the starting middle linebacker spot and show the potential he showed in college can translate into the NFL. So far this spring Herzlich is off to a good start showing the aggressiveness, awareness, speed and power that he displayed in college.
Either way, this could be the make or break year for Herzlich. He is up to the challenge and he should carry over his spring performance into training camp. He must translate that into production on the field though. This season could be his last shot to prove he is capable of being a starter in the NFL and Herzlich should finally emerge as the player the Giants hoped they were signing.