Much has been made about the Giants’ free-agent splurging on the defensive line and secondary, but there was also a position that was in great need of an upgrade of which Big Blue thinks it got a bargain-basement deal.
Linebacker Keenan Robinson isn’t a household name, but the former Washington Redskin could end up being a valuable addition. The five-year vet spent his first four seasons playing for an NFC East rival, but from afar, he admitted that he always appreciated how the Giants operated.
He especially likes playing on this revamped and pricey defense. And with mandatory minicamp starting this week, and Robinson getting more acclimated by the day, he feels he can be of great assistance and fly under the radar.
“I like where things are going, especially on the defensive side of the ball. The investments they’ve made to help build this defense up is great,” he said.
He noted how well the Giants restocked its defense, rattling off the new faces and holdovers who will do their best to keep him clean and unoccupied en route to the ball carriers.
“Every team at the end of every offseason has goals that they have in mind, and obviously this team’s was to build up that defense to the caliber of football that they’ve been used to from winning those past two Super Bowls a few years back,” Robinson said. “Looking at guys in front of you and knowing that they’re going to do their job and they’re going to do it very well is great. But for us [linebackers] we still have to do our jobs well – to clean up the scraps and try to make big plays … That’s why they brought all of us in, just to be able to make plays on that side of the ball.”
That side of the ball was of great consternation for the Giants, last season. The linebackers, particularly, were the butt of many jokes and were as big a scapegoat as the offensive line for the team’s failures. They allowed 27.6 points per game, and were the worst pass defense in the league.
Robinson said he knows he can not only play the run well, but believes he was also brought in to slow down the passing game – specifically with running backs coming out of the backfield.
Relative afterthoughts like Lance Dunbar of the Dallas Cowboys (eight catches for 70 yards in Week 1), Chris Thompson of Washington (eight catches for 57 yards and a touchdown in Week 3), and Bilal Powell of the Jets (eight catches for 91 yards and a touchdown in Week 13) were examples of New York linebackers not being good enough in pass defense.
While the Giants hope they fixed that glaring hole, Robinson knows they did.
“I believe I can [cover backs out of the backfield]. I pride myself on being a well-rounded football player,” Robinson said, adding he’s been given a crash course by defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo in mastering multiple linebacker positions. “It’s the same defensive coordinator and same defensive coaches, so it’s kind of like they’re picking up from where they left off last year. So, I just try to pick up the defense as I go. Every day I learn something new … They’ve got me playing multiple positions right now. I’ve been playing Will [weakside linebacker] and Mike [middle]. In Washington they ran a 3-4 [three linemen and four linebacker] and here it’s a 4-3 [four linemen and three linebackers]. But for me, it’s natural. I’ve done both and I’m very flexible in that way. I expect to be able to make calls as a Mike, and be able to take control, take command. They’re trying to transition me to more of a Mike that knows all positions, so that way I can help the team as much as I can.”
At a cap-friendly deal of $2.6 million for just one year, the Giants are hoping the addition of Robinson is every bit as profitable as the ones defensive end Olivier Vernon ($13 million cap hit), cornerback Janoris Jenkins ($8 million), and nose tackle Damon Harrison ($6.6 million) signed.
Big Blue notes:
- Victor Cruz made his return to the practice field for the first time in eight months, and appeared none worse for the wear. Cruz, who’s been battling to get back in the fold for the Giants for almost a year, said he feels good and couldn’t wait until training camp, late next month, to get on the field: “I feel good. We’re right at that turning point … which is why I’m pushing the issue every day. I trust my body. I want to put it all on the field, so I’m ready and a full-go [by training camp].”
- The Giants and Jets have informed the NFL that they are interested in hosting another Super Bowl at MetLife Stadium when the showcase games are awarded in 2018. The franchises, who hosted Super Bowl XLVIII, have a desire to host either Super Bowl LVI in 2022 or Super Bowl LVII in 2023.