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Camp competition: Who will start at middle linebacker?

Posted Jul 29, 2016

The Giants have a competition for starting middle linebacker at Training Camp:

At this time last year, you could have made a lot of money if you bet that Uani ‘Unga would be the Giants’ Week 1 starter at middle linebacker.
That’s the kind of season it was with injuries at the position.

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It changed hands from Jon Beason to ‘Unga, back to Beason, and then to Jasper Brinkley, who eventually stabilized the role for the second half of last season. With Beason, a former captain, now retired and ‘Unga waived/injured in May, Brinkley returned to training camp as the incumbent quarterback of the defense. But the linebacker roles are far from decided as the calendar turns to August.

“We have some veteran guys and some young guys that are in the mix right now,” coach Ben McAdoo said Friday after the first practice of camp. “Jasper is a guy that played a lot there for us last year, but he has some competition. It’ll be interesting to see how it unfolds.”

Brinkley, who signed with the Giants four days before the season began, went on to finish third on the team with 67 tackles and also forced four fumbles while starting the final nine games. Behind him are a mix of players this summer, including newcomers Keenan Robinson, Kelvin Sheppard and rookie B.J. Goodson.

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Aside from Goodson, the Giants’ linebackers -- Brinkley (eight), Jonathan Casillas (eight), Sheppard (six), Mark Herzlich (six), J.T. Thomas (six), Robinson (five) and Devon Kennard (three) -- have 42 years of experience combined heading into 2016.

But the Giants didn’t use a fourth-round choice on the Clemson product for nothing. While he will be a key special teamer, the Giants think he will bring competition to the linebacker level.

“He’s a young guy that has a chance to get some reps,” McAdoo said, “and improve his game and be in the mix for the position.”

Here is a look at the game-by-game starters at the linebacking positions last season:

SLB  MLB  WLB
@Dal  Kennard  ‘Unga  Thomas 
ATL  Kennard  ‘Unga  Thomas 
WAS  Kennard  Beason  Thomas 
@Buf  Kennard  Beason  Thomas 
SF  Herzlich  Beason  Thomas 
@Phi  ‘Unga  Thomas  Trevin Wade (DB) 
DAL  Kennard  Beason  Thomas 
@NO  Kennard  Brinkley  Casillas 
@TB  Kennard  Brinkley  Casillas 
NE  Kennard  Brinkley  Casillas 
@Was  Kennard  Brinkley  Thomas 
NYJ  Wade (DB)  Brinkley  Casillas 
@Mia  Herzlich  Brinkley  Thomas 
CAR  Herzlich  Brinkley  Thomas 
@Min  Casillas  Brinkley  Thomas 
PHI  Casillas  Brinkley  Wade (DB)