The Giants have a clearcut favorite to win a starting linebacker 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 taken steps to reinforce their squad during the free agency period. A significant highlight was bringing on board former Indianapolis Colts’ linebacker Bobby Okereke.

The Giants Made One Great Signing: Bobby Okereke

The 27-year-old linebacker, originally drafted in the third round from Stanford, has had an impressive run with the Colts.

Last season, Okereke amassed a commendable 112 tackles, recorded a 10.8% missed tackle rate, and allowed 651 yards in coverage, which included two touchdowns and four pass breakups.

With a history of covering talented receivers, he’s more than just a reliable defender. Okereke’s tackling prowess, complemented by his strong run-defense statistics, makes him a prime candidate to be the best linebacker for the Giants in the last decade. In addition, he brings leadership qualities and a great locker-room presence.

However, despite Okereke’s clear role, there remains a battle for the spot beside him.

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Linebacker Position Battles

The unfortunate loss of reserve linebacker Jarrad Davis to a torn ACL during OTA’s has intensified the spotlight on second-year players, Micah McFadden and Darrian Beavers. Beavers had to sit out his entire rookie season due to an ACL injury, giving McFadden a head start.

Wink Martindale, the team’s defensive coordinator, stated on Tuesday morning that McFadden has an edge for the starting position, especially after displaying promising metrics during the preseason game against the Detroit Lions. Within a 14-snap sample size, the 23-year-old showcased his skills in run defense, registered a quarterback hurry, and gave up a minimal 6-yard reception.

McFadden’s previous season saw him on the field for 435 defensive snaps. His stats boast 35 tackles, a 9.1% missed tackle rate, and 269 yards (including one touchdown) allowed in coverage. While his tackling was often on point, and he had some solid run defense games, coverage was an area of struggle.

Draft Picks Stepping Up

One of the positive shifts in the Giants’ strategy is their emphasis on pitting draft picks against one another for position battles, rather than constantly sourcing talent from the free-agent market. Historically, the Giants have leaned on acquisitions from the Free Agency (FA) Market to plug gaps. However, now, with late-round picks stepping up, the Giants are looking for these players to deliver exceptional value in the upcoming seasons.

Both McFadden, a fifth-round pick, and Beavers, a seventh-round selection, are under the microscope. If either can consistently deliver average or above-average performances as linebackers, they will undeniably exceed the anticipated value typically associated with their respective draft rounds.