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Defense Lessons: Strongside Linebacker

We talk often about the Giants needing a strongside linebacker. But what the hell is a strongside linebacker? I’m very glad you asked.

For starters, the strong side is the side of the offense where the tight end lines up. So, on defense, the strong side is across from the tight end. This is where the strongside linebacker lines up.

The strongside linebacker, like the name entails, is usually the biggest amongst his linebacker brethren. 245ish is the ideal playing weight.

What are their responsibilities? Their main one is stop  running plays to that side. Because the tight end is there, a running back often runs to that side. They have to be strong enough to fight off the block from the tight end, and tackle the ball carrier.

In pass coverage, the strongside backer has to cover the tight ends. They have to be quick enough and tall enough to run downfield with the tight ends.  Of course, they will be called upon to blitz and some of the best do so often. When you hear commentators talking about a zone blitz, it’s usually the strongside backer, or SAM, who is delivering it.

So when we talk about strongside linebackers, we’re talking about someone 6-2, 250 and can run. That’s why the Giants like to take undersized, athletic, collegiate defensive ends and try to convert them. The size is there. But going into coverage is a big adjustment for guys like Clint Sintim.

Unless Sintim steps up, the Giants will have to find someone to play there. They could move Jon Goff over, since he does have the ideal size. However, Goff is not great in pass coverage. In fact, it’s his biggest weakness. He’s better running downhill, towards the ball carrier. He’s a two down thumper. Which is fine, but it won’t help the Giants fill the strongside hole. Adrian Tracy, last year’s 6th round pick, is a darkhorse candidate. If the Giants sign Mathias Kiwanuka, he’s another option

The free agency market leans towards middle linebackers. Guys like Barrett Ruud and Paul Posluszny are great, but they are middle linebackers. Chad Greenway, who would have been perfect, was franchised by the Vikings. Guys who could be intriguing include: Manny Lawson, James Anderson. It’s not a huge crop. I think the Giants will stay internal, with the best option being Sintim, and the worst being Goff moving outside and Phil Dillard moving inside.

So, that’s the strongside linebacker. Now, when we, or any other prognosticators mention it, you can be fully informed.

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6 Responses to “Defense Lessons: Strongside Linebacker”

  1. Sam says:

    If Im correct I read an article written by Mike Garafalo about how the SAM has WILL resposibilites in Fewells Defense. Your right on about the SAM in almost all defenses but I believe its different in Fewells D. I think Kiwanuka is going to play alot of “SAM” and with him in there our Big Base D(thats what fewell calles it with Kiwanuka at OLB) on run downs is sick! I think Kiwanuka plays OLB on running downs and then they go Nascar on passing Osi,Austin,Tuck,JPP with Kiwanuka standing lineman. Kiwanuka has to come back especially the way Fewell was crying about how he had to slow down after Kiwanukas injury because Kiwanuka allowed him to give soo many more looks and more freedom to be creative.

    • Geeeeemen says:

      You beat me to it. For the Giants, Sam is Will and Will is Sam, and Mike (Boley) is our Will… or is he the Sam?


  2. JW says:

    Do you like green eggs and ham?

    Yes you are correct. it is, in fact, opposite. Bulluck was off the field, at times, because he was the “WILL”. Which also at times, was not part of the Giants’ base defense.

  3. sam says:

    lol, you guys make me blush, NO I DONT LIKE GREEN EGGS AND HAM, its not part of my weight watchers points plus for men program.

    But like I said Kiwi is going to play big base WILL”SAM” and then I want to see 5-1-5 or 5-0-6 in passing downs with 3 down linemen Osi,Canty,Tuck and 2 standing Kiwanuka and JPP. Obviously not all the time but I just cant wait to see that setup

  4. sam says:

    our 5-0-6 is going to be called, RAH-RAH like a dungeon dragon!

  5. Chris3035 says:

    Fewell puts the smaller faster OLB (usually weakside) over the TE, this makes sence because Boley is better in coverage and has to match up with pass catching tight ends…the bigger stronger OLB lines up on the weak side where he can blitz unblocked

    I do not think we need to go out and sign a big name OLB, id like to see Sintam, Jones and Dillard get a chance at it before we break the bank

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