Do the Giants have an underlying issue at middle linebacker?

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - DECEMBER 13:  Jonathan Goff #54 of the New York Giants celebrates after an interception in the third quarter with teammates Danny Clark #55, Michael Boley #52 and  Aaron Rouse #26 against the Philadelphia Eagles at Giants Stadium on December 13, 2009 in East Rutherford, New Jersey.  (Photo by Nick Laham/Getty Images)

Merry training camp season, everyone. It’s been a long offseason, but football is finally gearing up again and to celebrate I’m rolling out a new series on TSR entitled “2010 NFL Question Marks,” where I discuss one or two of the biggest concerns that teams have heading into the new season. Granted, some teams have more issues than others, but I’ll primarily be focusing on the biggest problem areas. Today I’ll be discussing the Giants and their potential issue at middle linebacker.

Despite the signing of former Titan Keith Bulluck in July, the Giants’ biggest hole remains at the middle linebacker position.

While highly productive for many years in Tennessee, Bulluck is 33-years-old and is seven months removed from ACL surgery. The Giants are bringing him along slowly in practice and while he’s the favorite to start at some point this season, it may not be by Week 1.

Even if Bulluck claims the starting job by the start of the regular season, the question still remains whether or not he’s a good fit for the position. Remember, he has played on the weak side his entire career and new offensive coordinator Perry Fewell’s scheme requires the middle linebacker to be active in coverage. Even if Bulluck’s knee feels as good as he says it does, can he really hang with LeSean McCoy, Felix Jones and Jason Witten in coverage? That’s one of the reasons why the Giants parted ways with Antonio Pierce – because he was too slow.

The Giants arguably had a better game plan in place when they were allowing Jonathan Goff and Phillip Dillard compete for the starting position before signing Bulluck. Goff opened training camp as the starter after turning heads in OTAs earlier this year while Dillard, a fourth round pick out of Nebraska, plays hard and was highly productive with the Cornhuskers last season.

But while Goff could be a force against the run, he’s unlikely to be an every down player because he struggles in coverage. Dillard would appear to have the most upside of anyone on the depth chart, but he benefited from playing in front of Ndamukong Suh at Nebraska. He too is better against the run than in coverage, which is something that Fewell will have to account for with all of his ‘backers.

I’m a huge fan of outside linebacker Michael Boley, who should play better than he did last year now that he’s healthy and not dealing with the off-field distractions (you know, like suspensions and battery charges) that haunted him last year. I’m also high on second-year player Clint Sintim, as evidence of this post.

But middle linebacker could potentially be a liability for the Giants because of what Fewell demands out of the position. If Bulluck, Goff and/or Dillard can’t prove that they can cover in this scheme, then this problem could brew all season.

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