A Look at the Giants Recent Personnel Transactions
After a relatively quiet three weeks, the Giants made more than a few ripples today with their pending acquisition of linebacker Keith Rivers via trade from Cincinnati (the deal is expected to be finalized sometime tomorrow), and their signing of offensive lineman Sean Locklear.
What does it all mean for the Giants moving forward. Here’s my take.
First, let’s start with Rivers. I like the deal a lot because it’s a low-risk gamble for the Giants that has the potential to yield a very high reward if Rivers can stay healthy. The Giants are getting Rivers in basically the last year of his contract (he’s signed through 2013, but that last year is voidable), so assuming he’s fully recovered from his injuries, Rivers is going to have a lot of incentive to really bring it this year.
I spoke with someone today about Rivers and this person thought that Rivers never really fit into the Bengals’ defensive scheme. This person further offered that he thought Rivers would thrive in Perry Fewell’s system not just because he’s getting a fresh start, but also because Fewell’s system is better suited to take advantage of the talents Rivers has.
Now the big question is where does Rivers fit in? Obviously he’s always played weak side, so the natural assumption would be that he will play that spot if he shows the coaches he’s worthy of getting on the field.
So what does that mean for Michael Boley, the incumbent weak side linebacker? Last month in an interview with SiriusXM, general manager Jerry Reese mentioned Boley’s name in passing as a potential middle linebacker, a move that sounds intriguing,
But in my mind, the one question that remains in the linebacking unit is at the strong side. In my opinion, Mathias Kiwanuka’s talents are better put to use when he has his hand in the dirt. So let’s say the Giants do move Kiwanuka back to defensive end. What do they do for the strong side linebacker?
Well they’ll have Clint Sintim attempt to justify his second-round draft status. Sintim has been plagued by injuries, and it’s also true that before becoming injured, he twice failed to nail down the starting strong side spot (Keith Bulluck and then Kiwanuka ultimately got the job in those two times).
So is Sintim finally ready to get it done this year? That remains to be seen. Meanwhile, the Giants would need some backup just in case.
One possibility that wouldn’t surprise me would be the tem moving Mark Herzlich over to SAM. Yes, he played middle last year, but remember, the Giants removed the strong side linebacker from the field on obvious passing situations.
I would not be surprised with a scenario where Herzlich moves to the outside to play against the run and then comes off the field on obvious passing downs in favor of an extra defensive back, or perhaps Jacquian Williams, who did fairly well in coverage last year.
If the scenario at linebacker works out this way, the Giants can potentially address multiple short-term needs with one swoop – defensive end (Kiwanuka would join Osi Umenyiora in the rotation behind starter Justin Tuck and Jason Pierre-Paul); strong side linebacker and weak side linebacker. (I still think however that they’ll look to draft a defensive end in a couple of weeks – I have defensive end as my first round pick, and I’ll explain why in my mock draft which is scheduled to start on April 18.)
Now let’s turn to the acquisition of Sean Locklear, who signed on Wednesday as a UFA after spending last season with the Redskins. As soon as it was made known that the Giants were not going to invite Kareem McKenzie back, it became rather obvious that there was going to be a hole at tackle.
Let’s look at the picture for a moment. The only tackles under contract are David Diehl, Will Beatty, and James Brewer. (Kevin Boothe can also play tackle, but he’s the team’s swing man who can go anywhere necessary if injury strikes.)
Stacy Andrews may or may not be in the picture – he’s still reportedly on blood-thinning medication and is next due to see the doctor in May. While in a perfect world the Giants might wait for him, the reality is that it’s a long time to wait and it would be foolish not to have a backup plan in the event that Andrews can’t resume his football career.
So the signing of Locklear makes sense for many reasons. One, he’s experienced. Two, although Brewer might be the future at the right tackle spot, the lack of an off-season last year hurt him so he’s probably not fully ready to take over a starting spot just yet. Three, if Beatty is back healthy, figure that Diehl will be his backup (my guess now is that Diehl will move to right tackle if Mitch Petrus is ready to play left guard).
Locklear? He provides veteran depth off the bench at either tackle spot (most notably the right side) Boothe will probably be the swingman inside at guard and center, and Petrus would seem to have the best chance of finally moving into the starting lineup at guard.
So barring any disasters or unexpected moves, my gut feeling is that the Giants’ offensive line will have (from left to right) Beatty, Petrus, David Baas, Chris Snee, and Diehl. Locklear will likely be the “tight end” in the team’s jumbo package, replacing Tony Ugoh (who replaced Andrews).
The backup depth as of now – and it’s certainly possible the Giants add another young offensive lineman to the mix – will have Boothe as the backup guard and center, Jim Cordle as a backup center, and Brewer and Locklear the backup tackles.
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As I was getting ready to post this, I caught word that the giants agreed to terms with former Patriots CB Antwuan Molden, who was in last week for a visit. I need to let that one settle down a bit before I go trying to figure out how he’s going to fit into the picture.
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In case you are interested, former Giants running back Brandon Jacobs had some rather intriguing things to say about his time in New York as well as his future in San Francisco.
For instance, he said he chose the 49ers because, “Not only did they have the best offer for me — I think that’s a special group of guys in that locker room, and coaches and the whole organization. And I grew up a 49er fan and I’ve loved the 49ers always. So it’s a good opportunity for me to put a dream to sleep.”
And in what was a jab at the Giants, his former team, when asked about short yardage: “You gotta have the attitude to do it, and you gotta have the offensive linemen in front of the back to be able to get it done. I think the 49ers have what it takes to be able to get that yard. No one’s perfect — somebody’s gonna get a step on you at some point somewhere and you’re not gonna be perfect. Because we had issues. When I was with the Giants, we had issues down the line. Of course I took the blame for those (because I was) holding the ball. But ultimately, at the end of the day it is my fault because I do have the ball and that’s what people see. But there’s a lot more than that going on.”
You can hear the entire interview here.