Giants shaking up linebacker position with Week 1 approaching

micah mcfadden, new york giants
Dec 11, 2022; East Rutherford, New Jersey, USA; New York Giants linebacker Micah McFadden (41) tackles Philadelphia Eagles tight end Jack Stoll (89) during the first quarter at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Tom Horak-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Giants have pulled out all the stops to bolster various positions on their roster, and the linebacker spot is no exception.

Enter Bobby Okereke, a freshly-signed free agent hailing from the Indianapolis Colts. Slated to serve as the MIKE linebacker, Okereke brings much-needed strengths in run support and coverage—areas that have been the Giants’ Achilles heel in recent years.

Sophomore Surge: Expectations from McFadden and Beavers

Pairing with Okereke, the Giants have high hopes for second-year players Micah McFadden and Darrian Beavers. McFadden comes with some NFL experience, boasting 435 total snaps. Beavers, on the other hand, is a bit of an unknown quantity after a torn ACL sidelined him for his entire rookie season.

Drafted in the fifth round out of Indiana, McFadden brings raw power and aggressive straight-line play. His rookie year saw him record 35 tackles and a manageable 9.1% missed tackle rate. On the downside, he did yield 269 yards in coverage, including a touchdown, two penalties, and a concerning 81.5% reception rate.

While Beavers displayed solid run-stopping and coverage skills during his senior year at Cincinnati, he has yet to play an NFL down, stirring some concerns. The need for more competition in this position became acute after Jarrad Davis, the Giants’ veteran linebacker, suffered a torn ACL during OTA’s.

A Calculated Gamble: Isaiah Simmons Joins the Fray

In a strategic move, General Manager Joe Schoen used a seventh-round draft pick to acquire Isaiah Simmons while also absorbing $1 million of the $6.5 million he’s owed. This former first-round draft pick comes in as both a linebacker and a versatile hybrid defender.

What the Giants are doing here is classic risk management—investing a low-risk draft pick in a high-upside player who’s entering a contract year. Simmons, despite his inconsistent three-season run with the Arizona Cardinals, has athletic traits that can be weaponized in specialized roles.

Simmons: A Multi-Tool Player with Uncertain Potential

Head Coach Brian Daboll describes Simmons as a Swiss Army knife. However, it’s too soon to predict how his developmental arc will take shape, particularly with Week 1 against the Dallas Cowboys rapidly approaching.

Last season, Simmons clocked 70 tackles but had an 11.7% missed tackle rate. His coverage stats are troubling—527 yards allowed with an 83.8% reception rate, plus three touchdowns and two interceptions. Though Simmons has struggled in coverage, Defensive Coordinator Wink Martindale could deploy him as a blitzer, a role the Cardinals rarely used him for.

The X-Factor: Simmons in the Giants’ Pass Rush

With his top-tier speed and strength, Simmons only saw 65 pass-rushing snaps last year, yet he produced nine pressures and four sacks. Should the Giants manage to hold up in coverage, his ability to create chaos in the trenches could be a game-changer.

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The Ongoing Competition: Who Will Earn the LB2 Spot?

While Simmons may not immediately secure the LB2 spot, he’s set to compete for reps with McFadden and Beavers. For now, Simmons brings a uniquely hybrid skill set that can be leveraged on third downs as he acclimates to the Giants’ system and playbook.

In sum, the Giants have undertaken a mix of solid signings and calculated risks to bring depth and potential to their linebacker corps. The real test will be how these moves translate into on-field performance as the new NFL season looms.