The importance of Michael Boley

New York Giants linebacker Michael Boley has a hamstring injury and it could affect his status for Sunday's game against the Eagles. Mike Garafolo takes a look at what this might mean for a Giants defense that has counted heavily on Boley as its lone every-down linebacker this year:

Statistically, Boley has proven vital to the Giants defense, which ranks in the bottom half of the NFL in both total defense (17th) and scoring defense (21st). He is second on the team in tackling with 59 total stops along with three fumble recoveries (one he returned for a touchdown), a forced fumble and a sack. Most importantly, he is the unit’s leader and one of only three players listed at linebacker who is not a rookie. The other two are Mathias Kiwanuka, a converted defensive end, and Zak DeOssie, who exclusively serves as the long-snapper.

Mike points out that the 49ers were able to take advantage of Boley's absence on both of their touchdowns Sunday, as rookie Greg Jones was an insufficient replacement in coverage. I also think it matters that Justin Tuck and other Giants are saying that Boley is the player they can least afford to lose on defense. Much of the Giants' success this year has come from their ability to mentally overcome the obstacles put in front of them by bad breaks and injuries. If it's in their heads that they can't get by without Boley, that could be a problem.

The Giants have been excellent about not letting injuries to key players affect them this season. Players such as Corey Webster, Aaron Ross and Brandon Jacobs have stepped up their games when called upon to replace injured players or assume larger roles because of injuries. Boley is another example, though, of a Giants player who has outperformed expectations in a year in which so many Giants have had to. If they lose him for any period of time, it just makes them that much thinner at a position where his performance was already helping overcome a lack of depth.