When the New York Giants trotted out to the team’s practice field on Thursday to continue their preparation for the Arizona Cardinals, there was a glaring omission right in the middle of the team’s linebacking unit.
Jon Beason, New York’s starting middle linebacker, was not a participant in the team’s practice. The day off for Beason was not planned, and according to head coach Tom Coughlin, was a result of Beason reporting to the team’s facility ‘sore.’
“I don’t know (if he’ll practice tomorrow),” Giants coach Tom Coughlin said. “They think he’ll play, but we’ll see. I think if he feels a little bit better out here on the grass. He’s sore.”
Beason broke a bone and tore a ligament in his foot during New York’s offseason conditioning program and missed the team’s entire training camp and preseason as a result.
With Beason out of the lineup in camp and the preseason, New York revamped its linebacking unit in order to make up for the absence. Free-agent acquisition Jameel McClain moved over from strongside linebacker to middle. Rookie Devon Kennard replaced McClain at SAM and Jacquian Williams maintained his position as the WILL backer.
But while Beason missed practice for the first time this week, Kennard sat out for the second straight day. Coughlin noted after practice he didn’t expect Kennard to return tomorrow.
“I wouldn’t even try to say how serious it is,” Coughlin said on Kennard’s injury. “He didn’t practice this week, we don’t expect him tomorrow.”
While the team expects Beason to play, if New York were to be without Beason and Kennard on Sunday, their biggest question mark would arise in the team’s base defense. When Beason missed time in training camp, defensive coordinator Perry Fewell elected to go with Williams and McClain as the two linebackers in the nickel formation.
In New York’s 4-3 front, the question is who plays where.
On the Giants unofficial depth chart, Mark Herzlich is listed as the team’s second string MIKE linebacker, but he has struggled immensely when he’s seen the field as a defender. If the Giants were to move McClain back to middle, linebacker Spencer Paysinger could theoretically fill the void at SAM, but he’s played primarily weak side throughout his career.
An unlikely, but possible solution, would be the transition of defensive end Mathias Kiwanuka back to the linebacker position. In 2006, the Giants moved Kiwanuka from defensive end, to SAM linebacker.
The Giants have their final practice of the week Friday morning, beginning at 11:20 AM.