Giants: Which 2nd-year LB will win the starting job?

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 a void to fill at the No. 2 linebacker position after losing Jarrad Davis to a season-ending knee injury. Last season, the Giants possessed arguably the worst linebacker corps in the NFL. They addressed that weakness this offseason, signing Bobby Okereke to a four-year, $40 million contract to be the team’s starting inside linebacker.

But the big question now is, who will start alongside Okereke? He may lockdown the primary spot in the middle of the defense, but the Giants have a pair of second-year linebackers, Micah McFadden and Darrian Beavers, who will be competing for the No. 2 linebacker job this summer.

Is LB2 Micah McFadden’s to lose?

McFadden is a prime breakout candidate entering the 2023 season after seeing extended playing time as a rookie in 2022. He appeared in all 17 games for the Giants, making seven starts and totaling 59 combined tackles, six tackles for loss, and two sacks.

The Giants selected McFadden in the fifth round of last year’s draft after the linebacker completed an impressive four-year career at Indiana. McFadden was a three-year starter for the Hoosiers. Prior to the NFL Draft, McFadden was described by The Draft Network as an “attacking linebacker” with good pass-rushing traits and the ability to shoot gaps as a run defender. He was frequently brought on A-gap blitzes on most passing downs at Indiana.

McFadden’s ability to rush the passer made him a perfect fit for the Giants’ scheme run by defensive coordinator Wink Martindale. In 2022, the Giants’ defense had the highest blitz rate in the NFL, sending extra pressure on 39.7% of defensive snaps.

New York likely would have blitzed at an even higher rate last season if the team had more depth in the secondary. In 2023, however, Big Blue made some big upgrades on the back end which should open things up for Martindale and allow him to send even more pressure.

With far more experience than Beavers and the ability to generate pressure as a blitzing off-ball linebacker, McFadden stands out as the leading man for the No.2 linebacker job.

Why Darrian Beavers could steal the Giants’ No. 2 LB role

Beavers is the less experienced of New York’s pair of second-year linebackers. Big Blue added Beavers in the sixth round of last year’s draft. The Cincinnati product turned heads throughout the summer with strong outings in training camp and preseason. He earned first-team reps during training camp and had the green dot on his helmet for the team’s preseason matchup with the New England Patriots. But, unfortunately, Beavers’ rookie season was stripped from him before it ever got started after he tore his ACL in August.

Entering his second season, Beavers will be playing with a chip on his shoulder:

As this season’s training camp kicks off, Beavers will be looking to replicate his success from last summer in an effort to steal the No. 2 linebacker job this season. At 6-foot-4, 256 pounds, Beavers has old-school size for the linebacker position. He has the traits to be an enforcer in the run game despite what he might lack in athleticism.

In order to steal the job from McFadden, Beavers will need to bring his A-game this summer. Thankfully, the Giants did not place Beavers on the PUP list to open training camp, meaning he is healthy and ready to go for the start of the summer’s practices. This could go a long way in allowing Beavers to make his case as a worthy starter in the Giants’ defensive lineup.