Browsing Posts tagged Rolando McClain

The 75th NFL Draft

Click on the article heading to see all of the updates, statistics, and commentary!

11:03 PM: With the last three picks of the first round of the draft, the Detroit Lions (who traded with the Minnesota Vikings) selected Jahvid Best, the running back from California. The Indianapolis Colts choose Jerry Hughes, the defensive end from Texas Christian. To close out the first round, the Super Bowl Champion New Orleans Saints took Patrick Robinson, a cornerback out of Florida State.
In a brief recap, what a great night. I knew the NFL Draft in primetime would work out well, but, this well? This was by far the most entertaining the NFL has given its fans in years. Tonight was a huge night for the NFL in respect to getting the story back onto the positives of the NFL instead of the negatives.
Thank you all so much for following New York State of Sports in our NFL Draft coverage. Be sure to check back in tomorrow night. The updates won’t be as frequent, but they will be there for all of your Giants and Jets picks. Also, expect many articles in the next few days breaking down the winners, losers, and impact players.

10:37 PM: The New York football Jets select… Kyle Wilson, the cornerback from Boise State. Wilson is another local product out of Piscataway, NJ, and he will be a huge impact on special teams. I would have liked to see them grab Sergio Kindle or Taylor Mays, but still, I can’t wait to see the Jets’ defense next year.
In a side note, Piscataway High School in Piscataway, NJ has had three first rounders in the past two years (Anthony Davis, Kyle Wilson, and Malcolm Jenkins)

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I decided to keep the NFL Draft theme that we’ve had here at NYSOS with my picks of the day. There are a few interesting props that caught my eye when I evaluated the selections.

Brian Bulaga, OT, Iowa

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The Giants are very high on Clemson running back C.J. Spiller, who most scouts consider the best and most explosive back in the draft. He may not fall to the Giants at the 15th overall pick, but there’s still a good chance Spiller will still be available. As you know, anything can happen on Draft day.

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Recently, I had the privilege of interviewing Scott Wright, NFL Draft analyst and President of Draft Countdown. If you’re looking for an interview with someone who knows all there is to know on the NFL Draft, here it is. Here’s the transcript:

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In part three of our four-part series, we’ll discuss what positions the New York Giants need an upgrade in via the draft on the defensive side of the ball. Last year, the unit was nothing short of a disappointment, giving up an average of 26.7 points per game, which was the most for any defense besides the St. Louis Rams and the Detroit Lions. So they obviously need some help. Let’s see which positions they should focus on the most.

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Rolando McClain, considered by many to be the best inside linebacker in this year’s draft class, will make a pre-draft visit to the Giants on April 12.
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Written By: Mike Ulatoski

It took longer than they had hoped, but in the end the Giants got their man.

For the second straight year, the Giants made a big, opening-weekend splash in the NFL’s free-agent pool, this time by signing Pro Bowl safety Antrel Rolle. Despite hinting they wouldn’t be big spenders this offseason, the Giants made him the highest paid safety in NFL history.

The 27-year-old Rolle, who was released by the Arizona Cardinals on Thursday, signed a five-year, $37 million contract tonight after a day-long visit with Giants officials. The Giants won a bidding war over Rolle’s former team and the Miami Dolphins, who a day earlier offered him a five-year deal believed to be worth $7 million per year. Rolle’s deal with the Giants’ averages $7.4 million per season, but more importantly includes $15 million in guaranteed money.

Spending like this didn’t appear to be in the plans for the Giants this year, especially after spending $84 million in contracts on defensive players last offseason, only to see the defense collapse. Their plans apparently changed when Rolle was released by Arizona so they could avoid paying him a $4 million bonus he was due next week.

The Cardinals still wanted Rolle back, though, and it’s believed they made a late run at re-signing him right after they lost linebacker Karlos Dansby, who earlier signed a five-year, $43 million contract with Miami. One report said the Cardinals matched the Giants’ offer, but Rolle chose New York anyway.

The Giants, by the way, have now spent $121 million in contracts on five defensive players in the last 13 months.

Rolle, who had four interceptions last season – including one against the Giants – will give the Giants another big-play safety to possibly play alongside Kenny Phillips. Phillips is recovering from surgery on his left knee and suffers from patella femoral arthritis. Though he says his recovery is ahead of schedule, his status for next season is unclear. If he’s healthy moving forward, the Giants could have the best young safety tandem in the league for years to come.

Rolle almost certainly will be the Giants’ lone big free-agent signing this offfseason. Several NFL sources have said the Giants have made no serious moves towards pursuing any of the top inside linebackers available, even though middle linebacker is their biggest need.

With reports that they are not pursuing any inside ‘backers, the Giants may look to the Draft to fill their biggest need. Rolando McClain would be the perfect fit for this Giants defense. The highest-ranked inside linebacker in this year’s draft, McClain would provide depth to a depleted linebacker corps and immediately make a huge impact. With Dansby in now Miami, the Giants will more than likely see McClain fall to them at pick 15 in Round One.

The Giants have released their defensive captain, middle linebacker Antonio Pierce.  After missing the last seven games in 2009 with a bulging disc in his neck, Pierce’s tenure has come to an end in N.Y.  It was unknown whether Pierce would return next season for his sixth year as Giant. The 31-year-old middle linebacker was officially released according to a person close to the team, in a difficult, but hardly surprising move. Pierce was informed of the move this morning and the Giants are expected to officially announce it later today.

In 2007, Pierce was one of the emotional leaders of the team during its charge to the Super Bowl XLII championship. The Giants played that season with a huge chip on their shoulders and an us-against-the-world mentality, which they took largely from him.  Pierce’s play, though, had declined in recent years and there were indications that even if he hadn’t gotten hurt the Giants were planning to explore their options for the future.
Now what?

Middle Linebacker:
Second-year pro Jonathan Goff got a brief tryout as Pierce’s replacement during this past season, though it is more likely the Giants will find Pierce’s replacement in free agency or the draft.

With that being said, it’s time to improve and build the middle linebacker position starting with the draft.  The Giants have always built their defense linebackers and defensive linemen.  Look back at past seasons.  Whenever the Giants have been successful, it’s been because of their front-seven.  I believe a defense can dictate an opposing offense; not the other way around.

Pierce’s status has been in doubt ever since he suffered a herniated disc in his neck that caused him to miss the final seven games of last season. Due to that injury, his age, and the fact that he was due $4.75 million in salary in 2010, he figured to be expendable in the Giants’ defensive overhaul.

Still, the decision couldn’t have been an easy one. After signing a six-year, $26 million contract with the Giants as a free agent in 2005, Pierce almost immediately became the captain and leader of the Giants’ defense. He also was a force on the field at times, recording 107 tackles in 2006.  In my eyes, Pierce joins the pantheon of great linebackers who have worn a Giants uniform.

As notable columnist Matt Vereb wrote a few days prior to Pierce’s release, the G-Men need to make an attempt to draft Alabama inside linebacker Rolando McClain.  A force inside with the versatility of McClain doesn’t come along very often. McClain is 6’4, 255 pounds, and dominated inside for three seasons for the Crimson Tide. McClain won the Lambert Award in 2009, given to the best collegiate linebacker each season, and was also first team All-America and a unanimous selection for first-team All-SEC. McClain would give the Giants a multitalented linebacker capable of playing a 4-3 or 3-4 scheme. McClain has the speed (4.55 40-yard dash) to play inside or outside, and the ability to play the run, drop back into zone coverage, or play man coverage against tight ends and running backs.  There’s no question he would make an immediate impact.

Kenny Phillips has the ability, if he can harness his potential, to be a premier playmaking safety in the NFL.  But as it stands for now, Phillips’ long-term health is an unknown – no matter what the Giants or his agent say. He was diagnosed with patellofemoral arthritis in his left knee before the season, and the condition worsened through the first two games of the 2009 season.  After having surgery to repair his unhealthy left knee, it could be a tough road back and there’s no guarantee he’ll ever be the same.  Phillips is ahead of schedule in his rehab from knee surgery, and won’t start running until the end of March.  Barring a setback, he should be ready for training camp.  Regardless, he needs a partner in the Giants secondary.  Michael Johnson and Aaron Rouse will suffice as the third and fourth safeties, but somebody else has to be brought in to start.

Some notable safeties on the free agent market this offseason include Darren Sharper of the Saints, Green Bay’s Nick Collins, Houston’s Bernard Pollard, Pittsburgh’s Ryan Clark and Tyrone Carter, and St. Louis’ OJ Atogwe.  If I were a betting man, and if betting were legal in this country, I’d wager on Sharper resigning with New Orleans.  Collins and Pollard are restricted free agents, while the rest are UFA’s.  Pollard is a big, fast, physical specimen who would fit perfectly alongside Phillips.  With Pollard excelling at playing up near the linebackers, excelling against the run and playing man coverage against tight ends and slot receivers, Phillips would be able to roam freely in coverage and make plays in coverage.

The New York Giants had one of their more disappointing seasons in recent memory last season. Coming off past seasons with a Super Bowl Championship(2007) and claiming the NFC’s best record (13-3; 2008), the Giants had all the makings for a solid 2009 showing. The Giants even opened up 2009 in dominating fashion, posting a 6-1 record. From there, things went sour for the team. Safety Kenny Phillips and Linebacker Antonio Pierce sustained serious injuries. Osi Umenyiora had his lowest sack total (7) ever in a full season. The Giants missed the playoffs and turn their attention towards April’s NFL draft.

Being two years removed from the Super Bowl means a team should have few pressing needs. The Giants are virtually set on offense. The Giants still boast one of the best offensive lines in football. Defense, however is the glaring need for this team. With the 15th selection in the NFL draft, the Giants will have a large variety of defensive prospects to choose from. Players that should be available include Georgia Tech defensive end, Derrick Morgan, USC Safety Taylor Mays, and Alabama Inside Linebacker, Rolando McClain. Of the three aforementioned prospects, McClain makes the most sense to me.

McClain is a 6’4, 255 pound force that dominated for three season for the Crimson Tide. McClain won the Lambert Award, given to the best collegiate linebacker each season. McClain was also a first team All-American. McClain gives teams a versitale player who is capable of playing a 4-3 or 3-4 scheme. McClain has the speed (4.55 40-yard dash) to play inside or outside. I think he makes the most sense for the Giants, given the unknown nature of Antonio Pierce. Many suspect that Pierce won’t play next season, leaving a large void in the middle of the defense. Mathias Kiwanuka is also quickly approaching free agency. McClain is a proven winner and offers any team a unique prospect that can either drop in coverage or rush the passer. USC Safety Taylor Mays makes sense for the Giants, given Kenny Phillips injury history. However, Mays was exposed at time for big plays during his senior season. I doubt Morgan will be available at #15 for the Giants, but would be a great addition for the defensive line. To me, McClain makes the most sense for the Giants in terms of depth and immediate impact, if he’s available at Pick 15.