Mark Herzlich said he feels like a starter. After a rookie year in which he got a two-game taste of the job before getting injured and a 2012 season in which he was a backup to Chase Blackburn, he feels ready to step into the middle linebacker job.
More importantly, his teammates seem to think he’s ready as well.
“A big part of feeling like a starter is that people around you have to feel like you’re a starter as well,” Herzlich said at Giants minicamp on Wednesday. “I think I’ve done a good job of being vocal and taking control of the huddle and getting the team playing on the same page.”
That job used to belong to Blackburn, who knew the Giants’ defense so well that coordinator Perry Fewell considered him an extension of himself on the field. Isn’t it spooky when you type a search into Google and it completes the words before you even finish typing? That’s what Blackburn was able to do with the defense. He could anticipate problems, questions, changes, and instantly formulate answers.
The Giants didn’t bring Blackburn and his encyclopedic knowledge of the system back this offseason, but Herzlich believes he can provide the same level of confidence.
“What Chase was really good at and what I learned from him is that if you talk everything out and you communicate well with the safeties and the d-line, then you get everybody on the same page and you can play fast,” Herzlich said. “The first thing you need to do is know the defense. If you know what you’re doing and you know what everybody else is doing then you can conduct it and you can be that coach on the field. That’s the job that I’m taking over and that I feel comfortable with, being vocal. If there are questions or uncertainties then you correct them and you calm everybody down so you can play.”
How’s he doing at it?
“He’s a lot more confident in his calls,” safety Stevie Brown noticed this spring. “He’s focused in whenever shifts happen, movement happens, he’s on it. He makes all the calls, all the checks.”
As well as Blackburn did?
“Chase, vocally, he knew every single thing going on,” Brown said. “That’s a big position to fill. Herz is taking steps towards it … It’s not like he’s far off, but Chase was that good at it.”
Herzlich is working towards getting even better.
“As your confidence gets better and you understand more what you are doing, you’re not worrying as much as guiding,” he said. “When you’re not confused about what you’re doing then you get to play faster and that gets the confidence up as well.”