Friday, March 26, 2010

Giants: Wilkinson / Linebackers

Al Pacino as Michael Corleone (Godfather III): Just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in.

Wolfman (re. the SBBR blog, with apologies to Al Pacino): Just when you thought you could avoid reading the SBBR blog during the off-season when nothing much is happening, I pull you back in with a nugget that turns out to have some legs to it.

Permit me to explain. In an item I posted on March 25, I went into a brief analysis of the LB position, specifically mentioning the interesting case of Gerris Wilkinson. The Giants tendered Wilkinson a contract as an RFA to keep him on the roster, even though he has shown little more than just potential in his tenure with the Giants, with his playing time significantly curtailed by injury. He was drafted in 2006 in the 3rd round and impressed the coaches with his athletic ability, speed, size and football IQ. He played in all 16 games in his rookie year, much of his playing time coming on special teams. He even started the playoff game against Tampa Bay in 2007 in place of injured Kawika Mitchell, but in each of his seasons after his rookie year, he missed significant playing time due to injury. Because of the amount of time he has missed, if the Giants had not tendered him a contract, making him a UFA instead of RFA, it seemed unlikely that some other team would have signed him. Further, I said in yesterday's blog post that GM Reese tends to hold players with high injury rates in disfavor and replaces them with players that can stay on the field. (Of course this is not something unique to Reese's world football view, but the Giants GM has acted aggressively on this philosophy in the past.) Therefore, I found it interesting that the Giants would even tender Wilkinson a contract. It speaks quite highly about how athletic he is and how much capability he has. Giants have upgrades to make at LB, particularly at MLB and apparently, they do not want to give up on Wilkinson and they want to keep his talent in the mix. Parenthetically, I will tell you that I always loved Wilkinson's speed and size combination. I remember him playing in the last game of the 2007 season - the "perfect season" game against the Patriots - a game I attended. I saw him on a few plays get matched up with Randy Moss and run 20-30 yards down the field with him step for step, keeping him covered. Those are plays you wouldn't see if you watched the game on TV and weren't at the game, because the ball didn't go to Moss on those particular plays. Wilkinson is 6'3", 230 with great speed - a perfect prototype LB for today's game.

Here's the exclamation point to that innocent analysis that I posted yesterday. In Brian Costello's Giants Notes article in today's NY Post, with the headline about Brandon Jacobs eager to have a great 2010 season, there are two innocent little sentences buried in the last paragraph that read as follows:

Gerris Wilkinson said that the team is moving him to MLB. He played mainly WSLB in his first four years.

(You can read the entire article by clicking here.)

Many feel that the Giants starting MLB for 2010 is not currently on the roster. Maybe he is and it is Gerris Wilkinson. If the Giants draft McClain in the 1st round, maybe they want a veteran to start, shepherd the player along and keep the position warm until McClain is ready to step in and start full time. Alternatively, perhaps the Giants are not planning on drafting McClain or realize they may not get him, leaving the starting MLB position wide open, so the Giants want to put as much talent at the position to create competition and hope that they do in fact find a starter on the current roster. The fact that they have kept Wilkinson at all shows that they still have hopes for him emerging as a player. The fact that they have shifted him to MLB shows that he is not just training camp fodder, who is unlikely to make the team. They are shifting him to a position of great need for the defense and investing coaching and training time in him, no doubt, in hopes that he will emerge as an important contributor.

Perhaps nothing at all will come of this. Maybe Wilkinson gets hurt again or performs poorly and doesn't even make the team. Maybe it is just moving players around to have the right mix of players at each position in training camp so practices can run smoothly. I just find it very interesting that there is some action going on with a player nobody is focusing on, who is well under the radar at an important position.....and that I posted about him yesterday.


Ray said...

Wilkinson clearly has gret potential, but even if he were to win the mlb job in camp, his injury history would make the Giants have at least one experienced journeyman lb around who could step in when he inevitably went down for a few games. I think this is all a ploy to try to convince those drafting ahead of us that we do not want McClain as badly as we do.

I think we could get McClain by trading up just a few positions (to about 11) but I am not sure Reese will do that

wolfman said...

Reese's history is that he rarely trades up. It burned the Giants a few years back when we wanted Revis and the jets taded up to hop right past us. Giants ended up with Aaron Ross, who is a good player, but Revis looks like he was one of the 2 or 3 best CBs in the league.