New York Giants Offseason: Reviewing the Linebacker Position

LONDON, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 22: Alec Ogletree (Photo by Michael Steele/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 22: Alec Ogletree (Photo by Michael Steele/Getty Images) /
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LANDOVER, MD – JANUARY 01: Outside linebacker Devon Kennard (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
LANDOVER, MD – JANUARY 01: Outside linebacker Devon Kennard (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images) /

2017 Depth Chart

Jonathan Casillas – 8 starts, 35 tackles, 0 sacks (unrestricted free agent)

B.J. Goodson – 7 starts, 53 tackles, 0 sacks, 1 forced fumble (signed through 2019)

Devon Kennard – 11 starts, 41 tackles, 4 sacks (unrestricted free agent)

Keenan Robinson – 3 starts, 32 tackles, 0 sacks (unrestricted free agent)

Calvin Munson – 5 starts, 60 tackles, 2 sacks, 1 forced fumble (signed through 2019)

J.T. Thomas – placed on injured reserve after 2 games (unrestricted free agent)

Mark Herzlich – placed on injured reserve before season (unrestricted free agent)

Curtis Grant – 10 games, 18 tackles, 0 sacks (signed through 2018)

Kelvin Sheppard – 6 starts, 49 tackles, 2 interceptions (unrestricted free agent)

Ray-Ray Armstrong – 1 start, 10 tackles, 1 forced fumble (signed through 2018)

Akeem Ayers – 6 games, 3 tackles, 0 sacks (unrestricted free agent)

Deontae Skinner – 3 games, 2 tackles, 0 sacks (unrestricted free agent)

2017 Review

The New York Giants have needed help at linebacker for a very long time. However, former general manager Jerry Reese refused to address the position with any significant resources.

One move that seemed minor when it happened but ended up being a solid addition was the signing of Jonathan Casillas in 2015. Casillas had 88 tackles in 2015, 96 tackles in 2016, and became the defensive captain for 2016 and 2017.

Injuries derailed Casillas’s 2017 season, however, as he played just eight games and had 35 tackles. Big Blue’s defense as a whole was a mess in 2017 and Casillas’s absence certainly didn’t help.

The linebacker injuries did not stop at Casillas. B.J. Goodson, who was supposed to step in as the Giants starting middle linebacker in his second season, played just seven games due to injuries.

After recording 18 total tackles in the season opener, Goodson missed the next two games. He then played four games, missed four games, alternated being active and inactive for four weeks, then landed on injured reserve.

Goodson totaled 53 tackles but struggled in coverage when on the field. 2017 was another lost season for the former fourth-round pick.

Devon Kennard stayed relatively healthy in 2017, making 11 starts and playing in 15 games, and had a solid season. He’s versatile, lining up on the defensive line in obvious passing situations. Kennard’s four sacks were by far the most amongst Giants linebackers. Throughout his NFL career, Kennard has shown flashes of being a very good linebacker but needs to be more consistent.

Keenan Robinson couldn’t avoid the injury bug. He missed the first two games of the season with a concussion and landed on injured reserve in Week 11 with a quad injury. Robinson was solid in coverage for Big Blue in 2016 but struggled in 2017.

Whether or not he’s back with the Giants in 2018, Robinson knows what needs to be fixed.

Calvin Munson made the team as an undrafted free agent and went on to play 14 games including five starts. He totaled 60 tackles and added a pair of sacks and a forced fumble. For someone who had very few expectations heading into the season, Munson had a good rookie year.

J.T. Thomas and Mark Herzlich were both taken down by injuries. Thomas was able to play two games but did not record any statistics. Herzlich was placed on injured reserve before the season even started.

Curtis Grant, Kelvin Sheppard, Ray-Ray Armstrong, Akeem Ayers, and Deontae Skinner all ended up on the Giants and on the field due to all the aforementioned injuries to Big Blue’s linebackers. Of that group, Sheppard made the biggest impact, intercepting Kirk Cousins twice in New York’s Week 17 victory over Washington.