New York Giants: Mark Herzlich is Not the Answer at Middle Linebacker

Mark Herzlich

Jim O’Connor-USA TODAY Sports

On Thursday, the New York Giants placed linebacker Dan Connor on the injured reserve due to a neck injury, effectively ending his season. Connor suffered a “burner” in both the last preseason game against the New England Patriots and Sunday’s opener at Dallas.

The Giants signed Connor to a one-year deal in the offseason, bringing him on board to compete with Mark Herzlich for the starting middle linebacker role. Early in training camp, Connor leapfrogged Herzlich and took over starting duties.

Now, with Connor KO’d for the season, New York is faced with limited options. They have Herzlich in one corner and they have Allen Bradford in the other. The Giants claimed Bradford off waivers this week from the Seattle Seahawks. Bradford was a sixth-round draft pick by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2011.

According to ESPN New York, Herzlich is currently listed as the starting middle linebacker. He may be force-fed to the Giants as a short-term answer, but one thing is for sure — he cannot be the long-term guy to fill this role.

Herzlich was signed by the Giants as an undrafted free agent in 2011. In 2009, while playing at Boston College, Herzlich overcame a rare form of bone cancer called Ewing’s sarcoma. It was just one year after he earned the ACC Defensive Player of the Year award.

Herzlich can be a situational role player in the linebacker unit, but nothing more. He is an aggressive tackler who thrives on a relentless pursuit of the football. The problem however, comes in pass coverage. Herzlich is too slow to keep up with the athleticism that NFL tight ends display in the game today. He is a liability and creates a massive hole in the center of the field when the Giants try and play in zone coverages.

On Sunday night, as soon as Herzlich had replaced Connor, Tony Romo zeroed in on Jason Witten and found him consistently down the middle of the field. Witten finished the game with eight receptions for 70 yards and two touchdowns.

Herzlich may be the Giants’ best option at this time, but if they don’t make a serious move to try and acquire another linebacker, it could become a lingering problem for them as the season progresses.

Daniel Brennan covers the New York Giants for RantSports.com. You can follow him on Twitter @DBrennan30 and add him to your network on Google.

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  • therza82

    Unfortunately, we already know the Giants don’t care and won’t do a thing to upgrade our LB Corps. We drafted a guy in Jonathan Hankins in the second round at DT when we already had Joseph, Jenkins, Rodgers, Patterson, and Austin. We could have instead used that pick on Arthur Brown, Sio Moore, or Jon Bostic.

    Marvin Austin, who finally showed those flashes of talent we have been waiting for was cut because of Hankins being drafted.

    I know we are low on cap space but LB is the cheapest position to fill. Guys, who would of represented HUGE upgrades over Connor and Herzlich were signed on one year deals, barely over the vets minimum. DJ Williams, Karlos Dansby, Daryl Smith, Desmond Bishop, and Nick Barnett all would have significantly improved our defense.

    I like Herzlich, I really do. However, he has been given every shot in the world to become a contributor on this team. I hope he takes it this time, but I doubt he will.

    Move Rivers over to the middle and put Williams in the starting line up. Williams is more than just a coverage LB. He is by far our fastest LB and could be an asset in run defense. He isn’t the biggest guy and has some trouble taking down the big bruiser backs. However, unlike Herzlich, he can at least get to them.

    Probably bring being a lot of 4-2-5/nickel formations which isn’t the worst thing that could happen since it means seeing more of Terrell Thomas, who is one of the best tacklers at his position in the league.