In the 11 games the Giants played with Jon Beason as their starting middle linebacker last year, they were 7-4 and improved their defensive ranking from 26th to eighth in the NFL.
Beason said the ascending is not complete.
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"I think what we were able to build last year in a short period of time was scary," he said Friday, the day after he re-signed with the team. "I'm a big fan of building camaraderie and sweating with the guys in the offseason, that's where you build those championships and we missed that. Well, I missed that because I came in early in the season. But for me, at this point, I know we have that coming up in April, get out there and earn the right to be a champ. It's going to be big this year."
When Beason was acquired from the Panthers for a seventh-round pick, it seemed he was going to be another broken down linebacker the Giants would take a chance with on the cheap. After making the Pro Bowl in three of his first four years with Carolina he missed almost all of 2011 with a torn Achilles and most of 2012 with knee and shoulder injuries. In 2013, he returned as a starter for the Panthers but lost his job and then was traded.
Once he arrived with the Giants, though, his impact was immediate and palpable. He became one of their best players and a centerpiece of the defense.
"You go through some stuff, you feel like you're getting dragged through the mud and all of a sudden you just keep fighting, fighting and then you come out clean on the other side," Beason said. "For me, a fresh start was great . . . I feel like I'm just scratching the surface. I really feel like that. To get a chance to have a great offseason, train and get in good shape to where you can play consistently at a high level is what I'm looking forward to."
Beason said he feels that his rash of injuries helps him as a locker room presence. "If you're going to lead men, especially at this level, you have to be battle-tested," he said.
He also knows that the Giants defense will have a leadership void to fill with the departure of Justin Tuck who signed with the Raiders. "I just want to continue to try and be consistent," he said. "I think when you're consistent, people follow that."
There's a good chance Beason will be elected one of the team's captains when the time comes in August. He already showed what kind of leader he can be when he helped turn the Giants around following an 0-6 start. As for his on-the-field contributions for the Giants - 93 tackles, including seven games with 8 or more - Beason said they were nothing compared to what he is capable of.
"That was just scratching the surface," he said. "I feel like I can be scary good this year and as a team, especially as a defense, we could be really good."