New York Giants’ Carter Coughlin making transition to inside linebacker: What does this mean?

New York Giants, Carter Coughlin
Dec 6, 2020; Seattle, Washington, USA; New York Giants linebacker Carter Coughlin (49) tackles Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson (3) during the fourth quarter at Lumen Field. Mandatory Credit: Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Giants have a weakness next to Blake Martinez at linebacker, with the expectation that 2020’s “Mr. Irrelevant,” Tae Crowder, will earn the first crack at the starting gig.

Crowder had an interesting rookie campaign, far exceeding his expectations as a seventh-round draft pick. He showcased the ability to step up in the run game and also drop back in coverage sufficiently but undoubtedly has a few kinks in his game to work out. He finished the season starting in six games and playing in 11, making 57 combined tackles, 23 assists, three tackles for a loss, three QB hits, 1.0 sacks, and returned a fumble for a touchdown.

I believe Crowder will earn the first opportunity to play alongside Martinez, but one other Giant is in the mix as he makes a transition from outside linebacker to inside linebacker.

The differences between outside and inside linebackers are significant, as an OLB is expected to rush off the edge and pressure the quarterback, while the ILB is oftentimes referred to as middle linebackers.

Essentially, the inside linebacker’s role is to fill gaps and make tackles in the running game, protecting the second level of the defense. Carter Coughlin, another seventh-round pick from 2020, is making the transition to the second level, given his undersized frame and physical traits.

What does Carter Coughlin offer the New York Giants?

He stands at 6’3″ and 236-pounds, and considering the Giants brought in a few bigger, more physical options at the position, Coughlin will now have to learn how to play middle linebacker after posting 17 tackles, two tackles for a loss, and 1.0 sacks in 2020. I would be remiss not to mention is standout performance against the Seattle Seahawks, where he played the “spy” role to help bottle up Russell Wilson in one of the more improbable victories of the season.

This is the perfect opportunity for Coughlin to learn a new position at just 23 years old, especially as the Giants look to plug a position of weakness. Carter will compete with Crowder, TJ Brunson, and even Reggie Ragland for the second spot. However, I imagine whichever option proves to be the best in coverage will win out, as they already have their elite run-stopping LB in Blake Martinez.

I do like the versatility that Coghlan brings to the team, though, with the ability to rush the passer from the second level and expose gaps adequately with refined moves. Nonetheless, it will take him time to adjust to his new spot, but with great mentors around him and fantastic coaching staff, I imagine his transition won’t be strenuous.