A month into his seventh NFL season, Michael Boley has been the centerpiece of some of the most crucial plays for the Giants defense to start the 2011 campaign.
He returned a Rams fumble 65 yards on Monday Night Football for his first regular-season touchdown. He tracked down the Eagles' LeSean McCoy for a loss on fourth down in New York territory, which eventually led to a Giants touchdown to permanently regain the lead. But maybe most importantly, the linebacker has provided a depth of experience for a position group that quickly found itself thin.
Jonathan Goff and Clint Sintim both suffered season-ending knee injuries before Week 1. That left Boley and Mathias Kiwanuka as the only linebackers with NFL experience on a roster with four rookies at the position. Boley, who was used to being surrounded by older players, found himself taking on a new role.
"It's funny. It makes you look at things from a different perspective," said Boley, who has one more year in the league than Kiwanuka. "For me, this is my first year being the oldest guy in the room. It's a little different now. I remember my first game, I had a couple older guys in my room. So I was constantly picking their brains, getting info out of them. It's kind of roles are reversed."
Boley was drafted in 2005 by an Atlanta Falcons team that had veteran leadership, including Keith Brooking and Ike Reese, who were both coming off Pro Bowl seasons in 2004. Boley eventually worked his way into the starting lineup and played in every game in his four years in Atlanta before signing with the Giants in 2009.
"I had big expectations coming to an organization like this that has had a great history at linebacker," Boley said. "I was honored for them to even give me a chance to come here."
After missing a few weeks with a bad knee in his first year with the Giants, Boley welcomed a new defensive coordinator in 2010, and he's been building the defense with Perry Fewell ever since.
"When Jon [Goff] went down and Michael had to take over, I think Michael assumed that leadership role that was vacated," Fewell said. "I think Michael has taken it upon himself to communicate with the defense more. He's always communicated with me. He checks in ... He's really taken on the role like, 'Hey, Perry, I can run the defense. I can make all of the calls. I can make all of the checks. We can get this thing done.' I think that's been the biggest change. He's approached it in a professional matter."
As the comfort level continues to grow in the system and with the organization as a whole, Boley explained the strong start to the season while ushering in a new batch of linebackers."
Trying to get better -- that's the approach that I take every offseason," Boley said. "What can I do this year to get better? It's not even just bettering myself, it's helping those around me because as we all know this league doesn't last for long. You try to maximize what you can do in a short period of time."