Originally posted on 60 Max Power O  |  Last updated 6/15/12

ORCHARD PARK, NY - NOVEMBER 29: Head coach Perry Fewell of the Buffalo Bills looks on during the game against the Miami Dolphins at Ralph Wilson Stadium on November 29, 2009 in Orchard Park, New York. Buffalo won 31-14. (Photo by Rick Stewart/Getty Images)

Although the New York Giants have several positions that will be fought for during training camp, perhaps the most contested starting role on the roster is at the third linebacker position(either MLB or WLB depending on where Boley plays). Last offseason, the team added three rookies in Jacquian Williams, Greg Jones, and Mark Herzlich. Furthermore, this offseason Big Blue acquired Keith Rivers from the Cincinnati Bengals for a fifth round draft pick.

The depth chart is beginning to get crowded with young, talented players; and it has become evident to Defensive Coordinator Perry Fewell that he is going to have to make several tough decisions throughout the course of training camp. While addressing the media yesterday, Fewell stated the following:

"Our linebacking corps a year ago was young and inexperienced. They were talented, but there was an area of concern because there was no OTAs, mandatory mini-camp, etc. With a year under their belt, with some playing experience, they look bigger, they look stronger, they look faster, they’re more knowledgeable," Fewell said. "I think we’re a better unit, linebacker unit, than at the end of the 2011 season. I think we have depth at our linebacker unit this year."

The hardest decision Fewell will have to make will be on Chase Blackburn, the seventh year veteran out of Akron. Blackburn spent the majority of last season as a substitute teacher in Dublin, Ohio. It was not until Week 11 that the team brought him back to replace rookie Greg Jones, who had been struggling. However, Blackburn went on to play relatively well for Big Blue; making several key plays throughout the duration of the regular season and into the playoffs.

The issue with Blackburn is that he is no loner competing with inexperienced rookies for playing time. The Giants currently have two solidified starters at linebacker in Mathias Kiwanuka (SAM) and Michael Boley (WLB/MLB). Blackburn currently has a hold on the MLB position; however, players like Jacquian Williams and Mark Herzlich have both been through a full season complete with a Super Bowl victory; and undoubtedly have a better understanding of the defense than they did a year ago. Furthermore, if Keith Rivers returns to form, he would be more than capable of starting for Big Blue. While addressing whether Blackburn can hold onto the starting MLB spot, Perry Fewell has this to say:

"I can’t say he’ll stay there permanently, but right now Chase is our guy and no one’s clearly beaten him out for the position," Fewell said. "Chase has some distinct advantages over some of the other guys. I said to the defense in our meeting, if I want to re-write my playbook, I would get Chase’s notes and re-write our playbook. He has been the best extension of me so far because he probably knows as much about our defense and how to make the calls and run our defense as any of those linebackers, with the exception of Michael Boley right now. That’s pretty good."

Look for Chase Blackburn to begin the season with a relatively significant role within the defense. He may very well start week one; but if not, do not be surprised to see him in short yardage situations against the run. That being said, Blackburn is not the long term solution at MLB. There are younger, more athletic players on the roster who if they can learn the defensive schemes, will be better suited to help the team; and therefore, surpass Blackburn on the depth chart. It is more than likely that Chase Blackburn's knowledge and experience earn him a spot on the 53-man roster; however, there is a distinct possibility (maybe even a near certainty) that his role will diminish as the year progresses.


Be sure to check out other great articles at Sports Media 101.

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