Chase Blackburn will be the New York Giants' starting middle linebacker when the team begins its training camp next month, but the role has apparently shifted into a one- or two-down position, according to the New York Daily News.
Defensive coordinator Perry Fewell told the newspaper on Friday that Blackburn, a seven-year veteran who was the starting middle linebacker to end the 2011 campaign, will go "back to that role" to begin camp. He added the caveat that there will be competition for the starting job.
"(Mark) Herzlich will have an opportunity to compete for that role. Greg Jones will have an opportunity to compete for that role," Fewell said. âAnd we're not opposed to putting Keith Rivers, giving him an opportunity to compete for that role. So there's going to be competition.â
In the offseason, the Giants traded a fifth-round draft pick to acquire Rivers from the Cincinnati Bengals, who were reportedly unhappy that he chose to undergo a surgery at the end of the lockout rather than sooner.
"I sense that we're going to put it up for grabs," Fewell said. "Whoever can take the bull by the horns and lead us will have the opportunity to step up and play."
Last season, the Giants spent most of their defensive snaps in some variation of the nickel defense to counter the spread attack that many teams are running, the Daily News reported. With just two linebackers being used in those packages, Michael Boley acted as a "middle" linebacker, directing the defense. According to the newspaper, the team is expected to play the same defense this season, meaning the starting middle linebacker will essentially be functioning in a one- or two-down role.
"I don't think college football allows you to have a big, anchor middle linebacker anymore because of the way college football plays," Fewell said. "And I don't think the NFL requires that as much anymore because a lot of things change with one-back spread teams that throw the ball all over the place."
Fewell went on to say, "We don't have a third-down middle linebacker. What is a two-down Mike? We may have to redefine that a little bit as we continue to evaluate what offenses are doing in the National Football League."
Fewell said the linebacking corps will be "an area of interest" for the team this summer in large part because it has so many potential personnel combinations.