New York Giants middle linebacker B.J. Goodson is entering his second season as a pro, but given how little experience he’s had playing on an NFL defense—just 13 snaps as a rookie—he might as well be viewed as a rookie entering this year.
Except he’s not a rookie, and is being counted on by the Giants to play one of the most important positions on defense, middle linebacker, the role which usually gets the defense all lined up.
If that wasn’t intimidating enough for the second-year man out of Clemson, he’s also looking at having to be an every-down linebacker thanks to the likely absence of Keenan Robinson, who remains in the league’s concussion protocol.
Goodson, who by nature is a patient young man, is ready for what lies ahead.
“It’s something I’ve always been comfortable with,” he said about playing in coverage. “I’m not sure where the naysayers get that I couldn’t do it from, but it’s something I’ve done in college.”
The returns on Goodson’s growth as a complete linebacker are encouraging so far. According to Pro Football Focus, Goodson played in 47 coverage snaps over the preseason (out of 90 snaps), and was targeted three times.
He allowed two completions for six yards, a 70.1 NFL rating.
As a pass rusher, he finished with a team-leading 2.0 sacks. His 2 quarterback hits tied him with cornerback Donte Deayon, now on the practice squad, for second most on the team behind defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul.
Goodson has also delivered the goods against the run, finishing fourth on the team this preseason in tackles (12), and tied for the team lead in tackles for a loss (2) with defensive end Kerry Wynn.
“He moves around like a football player,” said head coach Ben McAdoo of Goodson. “I talked to him today and I told him he looks like he’s born for the position, but most importantly, he’s earned it. First, second and third down, he’s out there, he takes ownership of the defense.”
“That’s an honor having a coach that’s adamant about you representing the position and leading the defense,” Goodson said when told of McAdoo’s words. “I’m definitely going out there with a chip on my shoulder and to lead the defense.”
Goodson praised his fellow defensive teammates for their support and for sharing little tidbits that he said has helped make a difference. He also lauded them for helping to fine-tune out the communication process so that things run like a well-oiled machine out there.
“As you know, any great defense in any sport, there has to be great communication, so talking to those guys and those guys talking to me, it all makes everything a lot easier,” he said.
This weekend, Goodson and the Giants defense will have to defend a couple of interesting challenges on that Cowboys offense, tight end Jason Witten in coverage and running back Ezekiel Elliott on the ground.
“I love competition, so it will be fun,” said Goodson of the challenges the Cowboys pose.
Goodson also added that there is no magic formula to slowing down the Cowboys attack and that it boils down to simple concepts.
“Just playing sound defense and doing my job first,” he said, adding, “and then getting to the ball is always the thing for the ‘Mike’ linebacker—having that knack for the ball.”
The Giants, who haven’t had consistency at middle linebacker since the days of Antonio Pierce, are hoping that the former Clemson star can solidify that position for years to come, starting this weekend.
“I’m excited to watch him play on Sunday,” McAdoo said.
Not half as excited as Goodson seems to get out there.