Welcome to the Giants edition of “The Voice.”
You know that reality show where established singers help mentor young, aspiring stars? Well, that is what’s been happening on the field and off at the Giants’ OTAs this week, only instead of carrying a tune, the goal is to call a play. To communicate. To become, for a defense that already has plenty of talented play-makers, the Voice.
It’s an important role, and one that has been left to second-year linebacker B.J. Goodson. With Kelvin Sheppard not re-signed by the team, Goodson has stepped in as the starting middle linebacker. It can be a difficult task to command the huddle and control a number of Pro Bowlers and All-Pros, especially for a player who was on the field for 13 defensive snaps in 2016. So maybe in an effort to help him, the Giants have brought in . . . Adam Levine?
No, they have brought in Antonio Pierce. The original voice of defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo’s defense when the Giants won a Super Bowl in 2007.
“He’s always dropping advice and knowledge on me,” Goodson said of Pierce, who is participating in a coaching internship with the Giants through the rest of the offseason. “He drops a lot of knowledge on me.”
Pierce, who became a Pro Bowler with the Giants, hasn’t played since a neck injury ended his career in 2009. More recently he’s been the head coach at Long Beach Polytechnic High School in California, a national powerhouse, since 2014.
What is his advice for Goodson?
“It isn’t one particular thing that I could tell you that he does,” Goodson said, “but he’s always telling me whether it’s formation recognition or any little thing. The details, he’s always on me about the details. But he does a great job of helping me and I really appreciate it.”
Goodson had spoken to Pierce since joining the Giants as a sixth-round pick last year. He hadn’t actually worked with him, though, until Pierce arrived for his new role with the Giants at the beginning of this week.
“I definitely try to pick his brain” Goodson said, “and he’s a big help.”
It seems to be paying off.
“I think B.J. definitely has confidence out there for sure and that’s one of the biggest things you want to see in your middle linebacker,” cornerback Eli Apple said. “He definitely has that confidence and that voice. I think he’s going to be really good for us.”
With Goodson calling the plays in the huddle and second-year safety Darian Thompson potentially making the checks in the secondary, the Giants could essentially be handing their sports car defense over to two players with learner’s permits. Thompson, injured early last season, has only been on the field for 87 NFL snaps.
“Communication is a big part of it,” Ben McAdoo said, referring to Goodson and Thompson. “Those two guys are definitely players who dive into the book and spend a lot of time in their book and it shows on the field with the way they communicate and the way they are working.”
Thompson was penciled in as a starter last year before his injury pink erased that plan. Goodson, though, was an onlooker. He played mostly special teams and got just the handful of reps on the field.
Goodson wasn’t idle, though. He was studying the linebackers on the field ahead of him.
“Those guys definitely teach you how to be a pro,” he said. “You hear that a lot, but it’s one thing actually seeing it first-hand. Just watching those guys, and watching how they moved, it was very important for me to see and to witness first-hand.”
Now he gets to not just witness it, but be a part of it. A very big part of it.
“I feel like the battle is always won in the mind before it’s actually taken into action, so the mental preparation is very important to me,” he said. “I’ve gotten very comfortable with calling the defense. My teammates do a great job of rallying around me and just getting everyone lined up. I’m kind of having fun taking charge of it.”
If he can hit all the right notes, this Giants’ defense should really sing.