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.