The New York Giants are taking a risk at linebacker in 2020, but the rebuild makes it necessary:
The New York Giants are still in the middle of a full roster rebuild, and expecting every unit to play at a high-level is unrealistic. With a second-year quarterback and an entirely new secondary, Big Blue will face its fair share of troubles in 2020, but improvement is all we are asking for.
While some positions theoretically got better, the linebacker corps is still very unpredictable and lacks elite talent. The Giants went out and signed former Green Bay Packers linebacker Blake Martinez, who brings experience as the MIKE linebacker who can stop the run and contain big plays. Martinez was often utilized in a vilifying scheme, noting that Green Bay didn’t value the middle linebacker position too much. He was forced to play zone coverage, Which affected his pass protection grades and efficiency.
The veteran defender will hopefully be an improvement over Alec Ogletree, but we won’t know until the regular season comes around, and we see his fit in the new defensive scheme, orchestrated by Patrick Graham.
The riskier spot is next to Martinez, where Ryan Connelly and a bevy of other players will compete for starting reps. The Giants seem optimistic that Connelly will return from a torn ACL in 2019 and play at a high-level. In four games, he posted 20 combine tackles, 1.0 sack, 2 passes offended, and 2 interceptions. He looked fantastic in a limited sample size, and if he can return to full health, Connelly will be the favorite to pair with Martinez at weakside linebacker.
Behind Connelly and Martinez is David Mayo, who signed a three year, $8.4 million deal this offseason. Mayo is a solid depth piece who can stop the run efficiently, but he is poor in coverage. Mayo played in 16 games for the Giants last year, tallying 52 solo tackles, 82 combined, 2.0 sacks, and allowed 19 completions on 29 targets, compiling a 65.5% completion rate against. One category he improved significantly in was his missed tackles. In 2018, he missed 26.3% of his tackles, which decreased more than 15% to 10.9% in 2019.
The Giants don’t have elite talent at linebacker — they have serviceable players that can hold down the fort while they continue to rebuild the roster. I anticipate they will look to bring in another player next year in the middle rounds of the draft or free agency, depending on how Connelly turns out. For now, we can expect them to enjoy some improvement after the replacement of Ogletree.