New York Giants inside linebacker B.J. Goodson wasn’t yet born during the early 1980s when the “Crunch Brunch,” the nickname given to the hard-hitting Giants linebacker group that consisted of Brad Van Pelt, Brian Kelly, Harry Carson and Lawrence Taylor were the standard when it came to linebacker units.
But given his physical style of play which has both coaches and teammates taking notice, Goodson’s old-school style of linebacker play probably would have helped him fit right into that linebacker meeting room.
“That’s a big part of my game,” said Goodson, who despite playing only 13 defensive snaps last year is well on his way toward winning the starting inside linebacker job. “I’ve always been that way, and it probably won’t ever change. I’ll never change. That’s just me.”
It’s also something that the Giants linebackers as a group have been mostly missing ever since Antonio Pierce and his band of linebackers were very much a big part of the defense’s fabric during its 2007 Super Bowl championship season.
Not surprisingly, Goodson has been given the opportunity to learn from Pierce dating back to the spring, when the former defensive captain was hired by defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo as a coaching intern, a role that he’s continuing this summer.
“AP has been helping me out a lot on being more of just a vocal leader and having to stand for the defense and being a strong leader,” Goodson said. “Be that guy that the rest of the defense has to look up to, especially when times get rough. I’ve been embracing that as well.”
His teammates are noticing it both on and off the field. Goodson has turned into an enforcer out there who is not afraid to bring the wood to the game and flatten ball carriers.
His aggressive style of play has resulted in running backs like Orleans Darkwa for instance getting popped if they should wander anywhere near the former Clemson linebacker.
“BJ is stepping into his role and he’s doing a phenomenal job,” said defensive end Olivier Vernon. “He’s flying around, he’s moving. If he’s not on special teams, coming straight off special teams, coming to the periods and he’s full go. You know, we all see that. And, he’s hungry. So, we like that. To be a part of this defense, you’ve got to be physical.”
“He’s a young player, a physical football player,” said head coach Ben McAdoo. “Every time you see him move, he moves around like a MIKE linebacker. We’re excited to see what he can do for us.”
Coming out of college as a fourth-round draft pick, Goodson knew that he’d probably have to wait his turn before getting the chance to step into the role he was born to play.
As a rookie, he kept his head down and his ears open, trying to learn as much as he could from his veteran teammates and always staying ready in case his number was called.
Moreover, he knew that his development from being a role player to a potential starter wouldn’t happen overnight which is why he set realistic goals for himself.
“Just being me,” he said when asked what’s been the biggest different in him from his rookie season to now. “Getting better a day at a time and one percent better at something a day at a time. If it’s something in the meeting room, if it’s footwork, if it’s hand placement, anything. You can get better at something, and I always say that. The coaches are still on me about that.”
With Goodson seemingly having the physical part of the defense down, he’s trying to master calling the plays and getting everyone lined up on defense, a role that in the spring, defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo said was something the young linebacker really didn’t do much of in college.
“It feels good running the defense,” Goodson said of the opportunity. “Just enjoying it and embracing it.”
The key for Goodson in calling the plays has been repetition and getting a feel for the talent around him.
“The more and more you get a feel for them, the more and more you build chemistry with them,” he said. “A little repetition and getting a feel for those guys and how they play.”
It’s been a work in progress, but it’s coming along, according to Vernon.
“As far as being out there and trying to step into those shoes and calling all the plays, we’re trying to get everything blended together and have all the communication down pat,” he said.
“I’m doing a really, really good job of pre-snap recognition and getting the defense at the right spot at the right times,” Goodson reported.
He’s also doing a good job of living up to the toughness shown by those legendary Giants linebackers who powered through injuries that might have sidelined others with a lesser will. That was on full display during Thursday’s practice when Goodson got his foot stepped on and tried to gut out as much of the remaining practice time as possible before finally being smart and getting treatment.
Rather than join the group of veterans who were given the day off during Friday’s walk-through practice, Goodson merely rubbed some dirt on the injury and took his place in the defense.
“I see myself as the leader, even though we have veteran guys,” he said. “Those guys are looking at me for the calls and looking for me as far as responding to certain things.”
Which is why Goodson is determined to not only expedite his development and inspire greater confidence from his teammates but to also be out there for every snap the coaches need him for.
“There’s just a certain feeling of wellness being around a middle linebacker. Just making sure everybody is in the right position, making sure the other 10 guys are comfortable and ready to do their jobs. I embrace it,” he said.