The New York Giants have weaknesses spread across the roster, notably at specific positions. Spots that could use a bit more support include cornerback, tight end, offensive line, and now linebacker.
The Giants recently parted ways with a starting linebacker Blake Martinez, a mutually agreed-upon decision that left Big Blue in a bit of a problematic situation.
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New York Giants have a problem at linebacker:
1.) Tae Crowder
The Giants’ top linebacker is now Tae Crowder, former Mr. Irrelevant from the 2020 NFL draft. Crowder has had a spotty two years in the NFL, posting a 16.1% missed tackle rate in 2020 and an 8.7% missed tackle rate in 2021.
While his tackling proficiency increased a bit, he is awful in coverage, giving up 578 yards last year, a touchdown, but collecting two interceptions. He spent 1,004 snaps in the box, primarily serving as the team’s run stopper with Martinez suffering a torn Achilles in Week 3 against the Atlanta Falcons.
On most other teams, Crowder would be a backup, but for the Giants, he’s prepared to take on the top role in the middle of the defense. However, it seems as if the team transitioned Xavier McKinney to the play-caller, which will take pressure off Crowder’s shoulders.
2.) Austin Calitro
The Giants are so thin at linebacker that they’re preparing to offer starting minutes to Austin Calitro, who has just 536 snaps under his belt as a professional after being signed as an undrafted free agent back in 2017.
Calitro can do some things as a pass rusher from the linebacker position, but he’s horrid in coverage and struggles with tackling. He posted a 13.6% missed tackle rate in 2018 and a 16.3% rate in 2019, the only two seasons he enjoyed over 200 snaps.
However, he performed admirably this preseason, recording 11 tackles, giving up 40 yards, and tallying two interceptions, one of which he took for a touchdown. In addition, he also recovered a fumble on Jets starting running back Michael Carter.
On paper, Calitro put together numbers that represent a solid linebacker, but this was during the preseason against mostly backups. He will have a daunting task ahead of him against Derrick Henry and a strong Tennessee Titans rushing attack in Week 1.
3.) Micah McFadden
After losing Darrian Beavers to a torn ACL against the Cincinnati Bengals, fifth-round linebacker Micah McFadden is expected to take on a bigger role.
McFadden, who stands at 6’1″ and 240 pounds, finished the preseason with nine tackles, giving up 60 yards in coverage on seven targets. He showcased solid tackling capabilities in run defense, making three stops, one in each preseason game. However, he’s extremely inexperienced, and the Giants would like to rely less on a fifth-round rookie if possible.
In the first year of a rebuikd, though, there’s no shame in playing the youngsters, spurring development for the future.
On any other team, these three players likely wouldn’t be playing at all, but the Giants have no choice but to feature their available options since they have minimal salary space.
With Wink Martindale as the team’s defensive coordinator, it’s possible we are surprised by their performances, especially since his entire scheme is predicated on blitzing heavily. Sometimes, you can mask deficiencies by putting pressure on opposing quarterbacks, forcing mistakes. However, against stronger offensive lines, the Giants will likely be outmatched.