Positional analysis: Linebacker

We’ve been taking a look toward 2013 with a position-by-position breakdown of the Giants leading into the scouting combine and free agency.

So far, we have analyzed quarterback, running back, wide receiver, tight end, offensive line and defensive line. Today is linebacker.


2012 depth chart: OLB Michael Boley, MLB Chase Blackburn, OLB/DE Mathias Kiwanuka, OLB Jacquian Williams, OLB Keith Rivers, OLB Spencer Paysinger, MLB Mark Herzlich.

Overview: The Giants finished 31st in total defense and 25th against the run. The defense allowed 100 yards rushing or more in 10 games this season, including 200 yards or more in a game three different times. Blackburn had a team-high 98 combined tackles. Boley finished with 92 despite seeing his playing time drastically reduced at the end of the season. Rivers showed glimpses of his speed and athleticism but couldn’t stay healthy enough. Williams was also slowed by injuries and played in 10 games. Kiwanuka continued in his hybrid role and Paysinger and Herzlich saw more opportunities toward the end of the season. While injuries hampered the linebackers, the Giants needed better play all-around from the linebackers and defensive line in stopping the run.

Free agents: Blackburn, Rivers.

2013 personnel preview: The Giants will be moving in a bit of a different direction after parting ways with Boley. Blackburn and Rivers are both free agents as well so the unit could have a much different look in 2013. Blackburn knows Perry Fewell’s defense perhaps better than anyone and Rivers, when healthy, can do some similar things to Boley. Williams should be in line for a bigger role with Boley’s departure and could start. And Paysinger and Herzlich could be in store for more opportunities as well. The Giants could add another veteran linebacker in free agency and perhaps draft one as well.

Salary cap situation: The Giants cleared some cap space by releasing Boley. Blackburn and Rivers are free agents but the Giants could look into bringing either or both back for cheap. While the Giants could sign a veteran free agent linebacker, it might be a bit of a surprise if brass went after a high-priced free agent. And while the Giants could draft a linebacker in April, Jerry Reese usually uses his first-round picks on other areas of the defense, especially defensive line.

Tell us what you think of the Giants’ linebackers going into 2013 and what you want to see happen in the offseason.