An over-excited inside linebacker is a summer ritual at Giants training camp.
In 2019, Tae Davis stole a job from returning starter BJ Goodson – then slipped fast enough to be cut by Halloween. In 2020, Devante Downs burst onto the scene, but he’s gradually lost some clichés and is now a third teammate behind two others in the limelight.
Versatile and powerful second-year pro Carter Coughlin (sack, forced fumble) and physical and tough veteran Reggie Ragland (defended pass on a third and a 1) combined nine tackles on Saturday in the preseason opener. against the Jets. Perhaps there is finally a recipe for success around tempered expectations, as both linebackers could fill specialist roles and be viable temporary injury replacements.
“It’s great that they move me around and let me try different things,” said Coughlin, who was drafted as an outside linebacker in 2020 but moved inside in the 3-4 base defense. Giants. “It was a challenge, but the coaches and other inside linebackers have helped me a lot, and it allows me to play fast and learn different things. ”
Tae Crowder is penciled in as a starter next to cemented co-captain Blake Martinez, but Coughlin could steal snaps from Crowder in rushing situations because the Giants are in awe of his combination of athleticism, strength and instinct. . Coughlin had a sack as a rookie after 22.5 in 47 college games for Minnesota.
“The interior is new to him so there are a lot of things he is experiencing for the first time, but I would say he has been positive throughout camp,” said coach Joe Judge. “He’s one of the guys we wanted to see how he reacted to different game situations – both on defense and on the kick – and he’s been positive for us. ”
There’s not much new for Ragland, who has 38 starts in 58 career games with stops in Buffalo, Kansas City and Detroit. He played in Alabama for Nick Saban, who is part of the same Bill Belichick coaching tree as judge, Giants defensive coordinator Patrick Graham and assistants Jeremy Pruitt and Kevin Sherrer. Ragland, who signed a one-year free agent contract, took care of the defensive helmet with Martinez sidelined with an illness against the Jets.
“I knew this defense was pretty good last year and I just wanted to come in and keep improving it,” said Ragland. “Much of the verbiage I’ve experienced since college with the program. But whatever you haven’t done in a while you still need to refresh your memory. I think I’m getting better every day, and that’s what I’m going to continue to do to put myself in the best possible position and help my teammates as well.
Sherrer’s message in particular penetrated with Coughlin.
“He talks a lot about the use of our hands, especially when we have offensive linemen in space,” Coughlin said. “When you play as an outside linebacker, it’s all about the hands. When you pass the rush, it’s all about your hands. So I think it’s one of those tools that helps inside linebackers.
Ragland missed the first week of training camp on the non-football injury list. He appears to be generously listed at 252 pounds.
“I feel like I can still fit into this game because you’re still going to need someone who can play the race and then drop the cover,” Ragland said. “The smaller the linebackers, it seems like the bigger the running backs, like [Tennessee’s] Derrick Henry and Chris Carson in Seattle.
Surrounded by youngsters and veterans who have endured plenty of defeats over the past five years with the Giants, Ragland brings credibility as a national college football playoff champion and Super Bowl winner.
“He’s got a lot of fire going for him, and Reggie is fun to have with him,” Judge said. “He’s a real straight shooter and he’ll tell you what’s on his mind, what’s good to have in the building.” He’s not afraid to have a difficult conversation with you.
For once, the “tough conversation” with the Giants might be the best way to deploy multiple linebackers instead of forcing starters.