The Giants have something special developing at linebacker

nfl: new york giants at las vegas raiders, micah mcfadden
Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Giants have grappled with a lack of reliability in their linebacker ranks over recent seasons. The team’s approach of depending on later draft picks like Tae Crowder and picking up free agents as quick fixes underscored a clear need for stronger defensive reinforcements.

Drafting and Signing Moves

In an effort to bolster their defense, the Giants selected Indiana linebacker Micah McFadden in the 5th round last year. Despite a rookie season that lacked consistency, there was room for growth. Addressing this, the Giants secured veteran Bobby Okereke with a four-year, $40 million contract, which seems to be paying dividends as the season progresses.

Linebacker Duo Brings Optimism

Despite a challenging season start with a 2–7 record, the performances of Okereke and McFadden are highlights in the current campaign. Their development hints at a promising future for the linebacker positions on the team.

Okereke’s Impactful Performance

Okereke has made a significant impact with 59 tackles, including 33 stops, and has maintained a solid reception rate defensively. His consistency has been notable, especially in the past five weeks, with impressive grades following a standout game against the Buffalo Bills.

Notably, he was elite against the Bills, giving up 11 yards on five targets, including two pass breakups and 10 tackles. He was all over the football field, and ever since that game, he has stepped up and played extremely well, which is exactly what the Giants had in mind when they signed him in the first place.

New York Giants linebacker Micah McFadden (41) celebrates with teammates (Bobby Okereke) after making an interception in the second quarter at Highmark Stadium.
Oct 15, 2023; Orchard Park, New York, USA; New York Giants linebacker Micah McFadden (41) celebrates with teammates after making an interception in the second quarter at Highmark Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports

McFadden’s Growth

Mirroring Okereke’s improvement, McFadden has shown considerable progress, especially after the Seattle game. He’s posted 36 tackles on the season, including 19 stops and 143 yards in coverage, with an 81% reception rate. His focus has been on making tackles and limiting ground yards, with seven tackles for a loss to his credit this year. While he aims to reduce his missed tackle rate, his aggressive playstyle often contributes to this metric.

Financial and Defensive Benefits

Having two capable linebackers under long-term contracts for a reasonable total cost is advantageous for the Giants’ defense. While the team recognizes the need for improvements, particularly on offense, the solidity of their linebacker unit is a positive indicator of the team’s developmental trajectory.

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