The New York Giants are set to have a competition for the starting middle linebacker gig between third-year Boston College product Mark Herzlich and offseason signing Dan Connor. Herzlich was expected to compete for the starting gig last season, but Chase Blackburn ended up winning the gig at MLB. However, Blackburn is gone and signed with the Carolina Panthers this offseason, so Herzlich has a great chance of capturing the Mike and potentially breaking out in his third season.
According to ESPN New York’s Ohm Youngmisuk, Herzlich is lining up with the starters today at Giants OTAs, and I have a feeling the Giants are giving Herzlich the early edge. He seems like more of a true starting, three-down linebacker than Connor, who was excellent against the run in Carolina when his career started off but has always had major issues in coverage. The Giants are more familiar with Herzlich than Connor, but they are also pretty familiar with Connor. He spent the 2012 season with the Dallas Cowboys, but it was a disappointing one and may have been due to his lack of a fit in a 3-4 defense. Luckily for Connor, the Giants run a 4-3.
Youngmisuk tells us that the starters on either side of Herzlich are Keith Rivers (here’s to hoping he’s healthy next year) and Spencer Paysinger during today’s OTAs.
Herzlich and Connor, since he was signed by the Giants, were always the two candidates to start at middle linebacker and replace Blackburn, but I have a feeling that the backup will also get significant snaps. Connor has a chance to bounce back and play at the solid level he showed while with the Panthers, while Herzlich has a chance to be a breakout player at linebacker for the Giants. The ideal situation is to have Herzlich capture the starting gig and succeed with Connor providing an edge on run defense as a backup. This is going to be a tough competition and one to watch closely through OTAs and into September.