Jerry Reese challenged someone from his linebacker group to step "out of the shadows" at the start of training camp. Four of them have.
The Giants trimmed their roster to 53 players Saturday and kept four rookie linebackers. Two of them were draft picks (fifth-rounder Greg Jones and sixth-rounder Jacquian Williams) and two of them were undrafted (Mark Herzlich and Spencer Paysinger). Together they form what could be the deepest, most talented group of backup linebackers in the league.
Of course, that's like saying someone is the best blacksmith in the neighborhood. Big deal, who needs a blacksmith? But the Giants believe that this group of youngsters not only will contribute on special teams right away but could develop into a formidable unit in years to come.
It was only two years ago that Jones and Herzlich looked like sure-bet first-round picks. But Jones' production slid as a senior and his size scared some teams off, and Herzlich waged a much- publicized battle against Ewing's sarcoma, a rare bone cancer. Now both are Giants.
"I think the linebacker position put a smile on most people's faces because of the rapid development and play of the younger guys, particularly on special teams," Tom Coughlin said.
To make room on the roster, the Giants had to drop a few of their previous prospects. They waived Phillip Dillard and Adrian Tracy, both 2010 draft picks. They also put Clint Sintim on injured reserve with a knee injury suffered against the Patriots on Thursday. But there was no guarantee that Sintim, in his third year, would have made the squad ahead of any of the rookies.
"The best thing that they did was play special teams, although Jones was pretty solid in there as a middle backer, too," Coughlin said. "The other guys flashed the other night. Paysinger made a couple of nice physical plays. Herzlich had an outstanding sack and did a nice job on special teams. Williams had a big night . . . They continue to get better."
Coughlin wasn't saying that earlier in the week.
"I didn't like, to be quite honest, their response to the Jet thing," he said, a reference to his disappointment in their play in a 17-3 loss to the Jets on Monday. "I thought some of them were a little big-eyed. But the other night they were locked in there and they did a nice job."
The Giants also settled a few other position battles. David Carr will be Eli Manning's backup while they put Sage Rosenfels on injured reserve with a case of strep throat that spread to his back. Rosenfels said Friday that he felt fine and was looking forward to being Manning's backup.
One mild surprises was waiving running back Andre Brown. However, the two long touchdown runs by rookie Da'Rel Scott made it hard to cut him and hope he'd clear waivers for the practice squad.
"Some of the guys are really hurt. Some of them were shocked," Coughlin said of making the cuts. "You teach them to aim high and they pretty much all aimed high . . . It doesn't get any easier. It's not as pleasant a day as some. But it has to be done."