The New York Giants have had a weak linebacker corps for years. After fans had to endure losing seasons with the likes of Alec Ogletree, Tae Crowder, and David Mayo as the defense’s leading men in the middle, it’s exciting to see a linebacker corps with depth take charge in 2023.
An impressive linebacker duo leads the Giants’ defense
The unit, led by starting LB Bobby Okereke, has been the most consistent piece of Big Blue’s defense. Game in and game out, Okereke and his partner in crime, Micah McFadden, have stepped up in a big way.
Okereke, who New York signed in free agency this offseason, is having a career year. He has already totaled 105 combined tackles in 11 games, putting him on pace to surpass his career high of 151. Okereke has also set new career highs with four forced fumbles and nine tackles for loss and matched a career-high six passes defended.
Alongside Okerkee is McFadden who is blossoming into a special talent in his second season. He appeared in all 17 games last season but struggled to play with any consistency. Now, in year two, McFadden looks like a new and improved version of himself, racking up 68 combined tackles, 10 tackles for loss, three passes defended, and one interception in 10 games.
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Depth behind Okereke and McFadden
Depth has been an issue for the Giants’ defense in recent years — at the linebacker position in particular. But this season, Big Blue finally has some depth behind its starters in the middle as LB Isaiah Simmons has developed into a solid contributor.
Simmons, who was acquired via trade during the preseason, is a former first-round pick of the Arizona Cardinals. He never developed into the high-quality starter that the Cardinals hoped he would be, but a change of scenery seems to be making all the difference.
This season with the Giants, Simmons has played on passing downs and in nickel packages to give the unit more speed and coverage ability in the middle in obvious passing situations. His play in this area has resulted in an 84.6 coverage grade from Pro Football Focus while playing 240 (33%) of the team’s defensive snaps this season.
Playing in a more niche role has allowed Simmons to thrive as he’s totaled 32 combined tackles, two pass breakups, and one interception that emphatically ended the Giants’ Week 12 matchup with the Washington Commanders with a 54-yard return for a touchdown.
With Simmons in the mix, the Giants have depth and versatility in their linebacker corps. He combines with Okereke and McFadden to give Big Blue a solid trio of defenders in the middle of the defense. And the best part is, all three of these players are young and good to last, making them foundational pieces for Big Blue to continue building around in what will hopefully be a more competitive 2024 season.