New York Giants linebacker Reggie Ragland (55) gestures to his...

New York Giants linebacker Reggie Ragland (55) gestures to his defense during training camp at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, NJ, on Thursday, Aug 12, 2021. Credit: Brad Penner

Blake Martinez is the Giants’ three-down inside linebacker. He rarely if ever comes off the field, serves as the quarterback of the defense, and is a good bet to lead the team in tackles this season. He has such a grasp of the defense that Joe Judge said he speaks like "the voice of Oz" in meetings.

But he needs a wingman. Someone who can line up next to him and play off of him.

For that, the Giants do not have any three-down players. What they do have are three players who might be very good on specific downs. The Giants got a good look at all of them in Saturday’s preseason opener against the Jets.

Reggie Ragland, Carter Coughlin and Tae Crowder gave the Giants a combined 11 tackles, plus a sack and a forced fumble both by Coughlin, and a pass broken up by Ragland.

"I think it's extremely strong," Martinez said of the group that may be rotating through next to him once the regular season begins. "I think we have a lot of guys across the board . . . It's just those types of guys coming into work every single day, understanding situations, understanding their job responsibilities, their athletic skill set, all those types of things."

Those skills and responsibilities are very different. Ragland gives the Giants thumping violence in the middle along with a veteran presence and a Super Bowl ring (he was with Kansas City two seasons ago). While the league has trended toward lighter linebackers in recent years, Ragland is a throwback to the run-stuffers of yore.

"The smaller the linebackers get, it seems like the bigger the running backs get like Derrick [Henry of the Titans] and Chris Carson up there in Seattle," said Ragland, who plays at around 255 pounds. "Those are some big-sized running backs, so it’s always good to have a guy like me that can run and play the pass but play the run also."

Judge had never dealt with Ragland before this season, but they have plenty of roots in common as the linebacker played at Alabama just after Judge left and also spent last year with the Lions. Ragland said that helps him with the Giants’ verbiage on defense because "it’s all a big tree." He linked current defensive coordinator Patrick Graham to Bill Belichick, who has links to Alabama coach Nick Saban, who helped groom Judge as well as linebackers coach Kevin Sherrer and senior defensive assistant Jeremy Pruitt.

"Reggie’s a real smart, instinctive player," Judge said. "He’s a thick-bodied and physical player, which is big to play in that inside linebacker role. He’s got a lot of fire to him and Reggie’s fun to have around. He’s a real straight shooter and he’ll tell you what’s on his mind, which is good to have around the building. He’s not afraid to have a tough conversation with you, so I’m really glad he’s a part of our team right now."

Giants linebacker Carter Coughlin during training camp on Tuesday August 18,...

Giants linebacker Carter Coughlin during training camp on Tuesday August 18, 2020. Credit: AP/Evan Pinkus

Coughlin, meanwhile, is a converted outside linebacker who can get to the quarterback from the middle. That’s what he was able to debut on Saturday.

"It was a blast putting everything that I've been working on in practice, everything that I've been taught from the coaches, and getting a chance to really go out there and do it for real," he said of his new role. "It's awesome that they're moving me around and allowing me to try out different things. It was a challenge moving from outside to inside, but the coaches and the other inside linebackers have been helping me a lot and that allows me to play fast and pick up on different things."

And then there is Crowder, penciled in as the starter on the unofficial depth chart. He has the athleticism to stick with running backs and tight ends in coverage.

Giants linebacker Tae Crowder speaks with the media at training camp...

Giants linebacker Tae Crowder speaks with the media at training camp on Monday, Aug. 2, 2021. Credit: Brad Penner

If it were possible to combine the abilities of all three players into one, the Giants might have a Hall of Fame-bound linebacker. Instead, they’ll probably have to rotate the three situationally and try to use each of their attributes in an appropriate way.

"Whoever ends up out there for Week 1 is going to be ready to go," Martinez said of the spot next to him.

The others will have to be ready as well.

Notes & quotes: The Giants signed QB Brian Lewerke to replace QB Clayton Thorson, who suffered a concussion on the final offensive play of Saturday’s preseason game against the Jets and was waived/injured. Lewerke, 6-3 and 216 pounds, was with the Patriots last summer. At Michigan State he played in 41 games and completed 721 of 1,249 passes (57.7%) for 8,293 yards, 47 touchdowns and 32 interceptions. He also rushed for 1,697 yards and 10 scores on 346 carries . . . The Giants traded a 2023 sixth-round draft pick to the Texans in exchange for defensive back Keion Crossen. The fourth-year player was a rookie in New England in 2018 when Joe Judge was the Patriots' special teams coordinator. Crossen has played in 43 regular-season games and five postseason games, including Super Bowl LIII . . . Three players injured in Saturday’s game against the Jets were placed on injured reserve: LB TJ Brunson (ACL), G Kyle Murphy (ankle) and S Joshua Kalu (torn pectoral) . . . Players had a day off on Monday and will practice on Tuesday before traveling to Cleveland on Wednesday for joint practices with the Browns on Thursday and Friday and a preseason game there on Sunday.

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