The Giants defense may be without its lone superstar, but it’s far from bereft of talent.
Linebacker Jon Beason is one of a handful of defenders who has had success in the league and, when healthy, is still considered one of the preeminent players at his position.
Besides, when a guy like Beason openly craves contact and laments the yesteryear when two-a-days and full-contact practices were the norm, it’s safe to assume Big Blue has a steady leader on and off the field who can shoulder the burden of a defense that’s currently sans Jason Pierre-Paul.
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“It’s a blessing for 9-on-7 [run drills] today. I just wanted to get out there and get my nose bloody,” Beason said when asked about the Giants’ first full-pads practice.
Beason, who missed 12 games last season with a toe injury, was near salivating prior to Wednesday’s practice. Always a very gracious interviewee, the nine-year vet was antsy during his media session. It’s obvious, the veteran noted, that he loves the game, missed his teammates, and is ready for full-contact displays.
“When you’re doing something you feel like you were born to do, I tend to get excited about that,” said Beason.
The linebacker is such a vital cog in new defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo’s defense, as he’s the man to call the plays and make on-the-fly adjustments. The stalwart middle linebacker has been the rock for any defense he’s ever manned, so while Pierre-Paul is the most talented player on their defense, Beason may be its most important.
If he stays healthy – no small feat – the Giants have a chance to field a defense that could carry its weight. But whether he can remain healthy is a huge question mark. Beason has not played a full season since 2010, and has played in four or less games every year since 2011 -- with the exception being 2013, when the Giants acquired him from Carolina in a mid-season trade. He ended up playing 12 games for New York that season – 15 overall, including his handful of games with the Panthers.
Last season, the Giants struggled defensively – particularly against the run, ranking a putrid 30th (135.1 allowed per game).
And without Pierre-Paul, who is an underrated run defender, it just adds more pressure to Beason.
He accepts the challenge.
“That's the best kind of pressure, [because] you know it’s an opportunity to do something great, when people put a lot on you,” he said. “Obviously, I think I can do a lot. I think, when [I’m] healthy, we’re a better team, a better defense. The pressure of that pushes me [and] it drives me to do more.”
Head coach Tom Coughlin is certainly glad to see his veteran linebacker healthy, and eager to hit.
“It means a lot [to have Beason back in the lineup]. He refocuses everybody,” said Coughlin, when asked about having Beason’s presence out there again. “He’s got great energy [and] is a very positive guy [with], good leadership.”
The coach was still non-committal of how many reps – if any – that Beason will get when the Giants collaborate with the Cincinnati Bengals next week in joint sessions. But as far as the preseason matchup against the Bengals in their pre-season opener next weekend, Beason noted he definitely sees himself on the field.
“I better be on that field,” he said. “I don’t want to get dressed for nothing.”
Beason has been nothing but a hard worker since being cleared to play again. Time and again he can be seen with Spagnuolo on the sidelines during special teams work, going over techniques with his coach and working on a heavy-bag to fine-tune his already deft tackling form.
Simply put, the frothing linebacker is ready for some real action, and ready to pick up the slack until Pierre-Paul returns.
“This is as good as I’ve felt in several years heading into camp. I mean, with all my time off, I should be fresher,” he noted, adding his injury history is more bad luck and timing than an indictment on his physical wares. “Football’s an injury-prone sport.”
If he remains healthy for a full 16-game slate for the first time in five seasons, Beason will be the one administering the hurt to opponents, and being the main cog in keeping Big Blue afloat until its franchise defender returns.
Big Blue notes:
-First-round pick Ereck Flowers missed his second-straight day with a hip flexor. Coughlin noted the rookie left tackle is still day-to-day.
-Flowers wasn’t the only one ailing, as there were a few Giants also little banged up during Wednesday’s session as linebacker Jameel McClain (stinger), cornerback Prince Amukamara (groin), and center Weston Richburg (knee tendinitis) all saw extra time from the trainers.
-Sans Flowers and Richburg, the starting five on the offensive line featured Justin Pugh at left tackle, Adam Gettis at left guard, Dallas Reynolds at center, Geoff Schwartz at right guard, and Marshall Newhouse at right tackle.
-Former Giants defensive end Osi Umenyiora will have to wait for his “Retirement Day,” as it was originally scheduled for this week at camp. A team spokesperson said it’ll likely happen later this summer.
-The Giants and Bengals will conduct joint practices next week, first at Big Blue’s facilities, and the other in Cincinnati. One will be in full pads, while the other will only be in “uppers” (helmets, jerseys, and shoulder pads).