The Giants received positive news on Tuesday when they learned that starting middle linebacker Jon Beason will not require surgery on his injured right foot. They also learned that they have a viable replacement if Beason isn’t up to task and able to start Week 1.
Jameel McClain has been taking first team snaps at middle linebacker during mandatory minicamp, and is transitioning into the role quite easily. The former starting linebacker for the Ravens not only provides the defense with an experienced veteran, but also a team leader.
Despite his signing being fairly unnoticed by fans and the media, McClain is now the most important Giant’s free agent addition. Before he joined the team they had very limited options at middle linebacker.
Behind him on the depth chart is Mark Herzlich, who is more of an accomplished author than linebacker at this point his career, and two rookies, one of which is an undrafted free agent. His NFL experience will prove to be invaluable to a team that has neglected to shore up the middle of their defense for years.
McClain, who has played in a base 3-4 since 2008, seems to be assimilating nicely to the Giants 4-3. Known defensive leader Antrel Rolle told ESPN’s Dan Graziano that, “McClain knows exactly what to do, when to do it and how to do it.” While with the Ravens, McClain played all the linebacker positions so his smooth transition to the inside is not too surprising.
What is surprising is how quickly he has embraced the role of a leader as a new comer. When Beason was traded to Big Blue last season, he immediately stepped in and made an impact on the field and in the locker room.
McClain seems to want to do more of the same. The Giants have given him the opportunity to step up as that same type of leader by letting him take over the play calling duties. This is nothing new for him as he was often the signal caller for his former team. Impressive, considering the Ravens had a certain, future Hall of Famer on their roster (Ray Lewis) while he was there.
McClain’s intangibles might be his most important attributes. He adds the same level of enthusiasm and leadership that Beason has, which gave the Giants their identity on defense last season. Rather than dwell on losing one of their best teammates he is helping to keep the defense focused on progressing and getting better. After losing Justin Tuck to the Raiders in free agency, the Giants must be thrilled they have another veteran that is willing help a shape a relatively young group.
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