When it comes to being a middle linebacker, you either have it or you don’t.
That position — much like quarterback on the other side of the ball — requires more than just athleticism and strength. There is also the element of leadership and other intangibles that must emanate from that player. The other 10 men on the field must look to him with respect and with trust.
B.J. Goodson, in other words, was born to be a middle linebacker.
“I’ve definitely heard that there’s a certain personality that a [middle] linebacker has,” Goodson said Friday. “I bring that aura. People want to be around a middle linebacker. There’s just a certain feeling of wellness being around a middle linebacker. Just making sure everybody is in the right position, making sure the other 10 guys are comfortable and ready to do their jobs. I embrace it.”
The Giants are embracing him, essentially handing him that all-important job this summer and asking him to be the pilot of their defense. A year after he spent most of the season on the bench and playing special teams — he took 14 defensive snaps all year — Goodson is now the central figure for a group that figures to determine just how far the Giants can go this year.
So far, he is making a good impression. And not just on the coaches and his fellow defensive players, but on the guys he is hitting, too.
Ben McAdoo said the Giants are practicing at “thud tempo” when they are in pads, which means giving players a pop but not wrapping them up and tackling them to the ground. Sometimes players do leave their feet, though, and it seems as if in every practice, Goodson has taken a ballcarrier off his feet.
“B.J.,” McAdoo said, “is good at thudding.”
The second-year player certainly seems to be bringing a physicality that was missing last year. While the major concern regarding Goodson stepping into the starting role was and likely still revolves around his leadership and ability to make the calls and checks at the line of scrimmage, he’s showing that hitting people is not a problem.
Unless, of course, you are the one he’s hitting.
“B.J. there, it’s his first season as a starter, so maybe he is trying to make a point or something, I don’t know,” running back Orleans Darkwa said after being lit up by the linebacker on a screen pass Thursday. Darkwa was visibly shaken and taken to the side for evaluation, but he returned to practice.
McAdoo said that Goodson’s hit there — and the others he has delivered in camp, including one on Sterling Shepard on the first day of practice — are within the boundaries of this camp’s protocols.
“The backs need to feel it, the linebackers need to feel it,” McAdoo said. “There needs to be contact there.”
Goodson is happy to deliver that.
“That’s a big part of my game,” Goodson said. “I’ve always been that way, and it probably won’t ever change. I’ll never change. That’s just me.”
That goes into the central casting version of a middle linebacker too, along with the attitude. And all of it had better be authentic.
“You can’t fake that, it has to be real,” Goodson said. “You have to have that in you. There’s a lot of guys who try to fake it and they’re not successful at it.”
What happens to them? They become outside linebackers?
“Right,” Goodson grinned.
That seems like something a real middle linebacker would say.