A battle for the inside linebacker job is brewing for the New York Giants, one that fans may have not initially expected.
Going into 2019, it’s clear Alec Ogletree is going to be one of the two starting inside linebackers for the New York Giants. He was the more experienced and talented of the group for Big Blue last year in James Bettcher’s 3-4 defensive set. That’ll continue this year.
But what about the other inside linebacker?
Well, for one, I am going to point out a mistake I previously made. I’m an adult (my banner picture supports the fact that I look like I’m 17, but in fact, I’m 22) and I’ll call myself out when I’m wrong. Last week, in a story I published where I predicted the Giants Week 1 defensive starters, I said B.J. Goodson was a lock for the inside linebacker spot alongside Ogletree.
At the time, I thought it was a fair prediction. Goodson started 13 of the 15 games he appeared in last year. He racked up 61 tackles with four tackles for loss, three quarterback hits, two interceptions, four passes defended and 0.5 sacks. It really seemed the Giants liked him at that spot and he would retain that role going into 2019.
I mean, at the end of the day, who would he compete with for that spot? Well, it seems it would be him, Tae Davis and Ryan Connelly battling. The rest of the inside linebackers (Nate Stupar, Josiah Tauaefa, Jonathan Anderson, and Joey Alfieri) seem like they’re going to be either special teams assets or released prior to the 53-man roster finalization.
With Goodson going into year No. 4, he has a leg up in experience on both Davis (second year) and Connelly (rookie year).
In 2018, Davis only started four games out of the 14 he appeared in. He ultimately racked up 33 tackles with two tackles for loss, four quarterback hits, one pass defended and two sacks. Coming into this season, it seemed like Davis could definitely be used in certain packages, kind of like last year. He would also possibly compete with Connelly to be a backup to both Goodson and Ogletree.
Let’s go back to my prediction though. All the statistics and facts I just named support my decision, correct? Well yes, they do. But, after watching the Giants’ first preseason game against the New York Jets last Thursday, it seems my selection of Goodson to start was all wrong.
Davis actually got the start over Goodson against the Jets, which certainly raised my eyebrows. I knew the coaching staff liked Davis in camp, but I didn’t think he was performing well enough to get the nod to start, even if it’s just preseason.
Davis racked up five total tackles in the 31-22 win over Gang Green. If Davis starting wasn’t a surprise, Goodson’s role in the game definitely did.
The Giants had Goodson playing in the final minutes of the game, with the third and fourth-team players. It’s one thing playing towards the end of a preseason game if you’re a late-round pick, undrafted rookie, or third-string backup trying to crack the final roster.
However, if you started 13 games the previous year for this same exact organization and you’re getting time in the backend of that game, it’s not the best look for Goodson whatsoever.
Not to mention, he struggled too.
Goodson only had one tackle on the night. Additionally, he was beaten in coverage by Jets undrafted rookie wide receiver Greg Dortch. In the final seconds, Goodson bumped Dortch in the middle of his route and then couldn’t keep up with him across the goal line. Dortch eventually caught a touchdown pass from Jets quarterback Luke Falk on the play, with Goodson trailing behind him.
So, yeah. I was dead wrong on saying Goodson would be a lock for the starting inside linebacker alongside Ogletree. I’m probably going to be right about Ogletree, barring any sort of injury, that’s for sure. But for right now, it doesn’t seem like Goodson is the favorite to win the starting job.
It actually seems Goodson will have to fight his way onto the final roster, and that the rookie Connelly could end up seeing more time than him. It’s hard to see them cutting Connelly, being that they took him in the fifth round (No. 143 overall) out of the University of Wisconsin. Even if they both make the team, Connelly could find himself ahead of Goodson on the depth chart.
Connelly racked up five tackles against the Jets last Thursday. Not to mention, when Ogletree didn’t practice on Monday (due to a leg strain sustained in the Jets game), Connelly took first-team reps in his place. Head coach Pat Shurmur has even praised the rookie linebacker.
Ryan Connelly "has shown us that he belongs on the field," says Pat Shurmur.
— Big Blue View (@bigblueview) August 12, 2019
Therefore, at the end of all this, if I had to make another prediction, I would choose Davis as the starter. However, it’s not a lock. You never know if Connelly or Goodson will catch the eyes of coaches before the regular season begins. It’s the NFL. Anything can happen. Davis will have to continue to compete, just like he has thus far.