Steve Spagnuolo said Friday that overall depth and health at linebacker are two areas he is keyed in on as he tries to mold the Giants’ 2017 defense. And linebacker Keenan Robinson’s return to the concussion protocol Friday — only five days after his return — demonstrated exactly why.
“The concern to me is really depth and getting guys behind the starting group ready to go,” Spagnuolo said. “And the linebacker situation has kind of been revolving, so to speak.”
Robinson, 28, the Giants’ best coverage linebacker, sustained a concussion on Aug. 2 and returned from the concussion protocol only this past Sunday, but now is back in it after leaving late during Friday’s practice. Mark Herzlich (stinger) hasn’t been practicing.
J.T. Thomas (knee) is off the physically unable to perform list and ran hard on the side of Friday’s practice, but he still isn’t working with the team. And while youngsters Calvin Munson and Curtis Grant are playing well, Spagnuolo is seeking clarity.
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“There’s some moving pieces right there right now,” he said. “B.J. (Goodson) has stepped in and done some good things (at middle linebacker). Keenan’s (Robinson) been nicked a little bit, J.T. (Thomas) hadn’t been in there. We’ve got some young guys. It’s going to take a little while to figure that out. We’ve got a couple weeks to figure that out.”
Spagnuolo at least had an encouraging and surprising anecdote about Goodson, 24, the fourth-round pick out of Clemson manning the middle of the starting D.
“I love the look in his eye. Believe it or not, the other day, I said something to him maybe a little harsh and he responded just as harsh,” Spagnuolo said. “I like that in a Mike linebacker. Antonio (Pierce) and I were talking about it, and there weren’t many moments like that with (me and) AP. But I like that, when there’s a little fire in the Mike linebacker.”
PRAISE FOR ROOKIE TACKLE; MOTIVATION FOR OKWARA
Spagnuolo seemed lukewarm coming out of the spring about rookie defensive tackle Dalvin Tomlinson. But on Friday the coordinator said Jerry Reese’s second-round pick out of Alabama has turned his play up.
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“I was talking with a couple of the coaches, I think Dalvin made a big jump from last week to this week. He’s played a little bit more violent,” Spagnuolo said. “I think he’s getting a little more comfortable with the guys he’s playing with. I’m really encouraged by him.”
Tomlinson could be gaining ground behind impressive veteran Jay Bromley in the competition to start in place of Johnathan Hankins, who signed with the Indianapolis Colts in free agency.
Spagnuolo, meanwhile, also seemed to try and light a bit of a fire under second-year end Romeo Okwara.
“I talked with him the other day,” Spagnuolo said. “I think he needs to jump it up a little bit. We need to see him do some of the things he did a year ago that we were all impressed with. Right now we’ve got confidence in him as our third defensive end.”
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PROTECT THE DUKE
Depth corner Donte Deayon had a strong training camp and mostly played well in the preseason opener against the Steelers, logging 48 snaps (33 defense, 15 special teams), fourth-most on the entire team. Spagnuolo on Friday said Deayon, 23, is “doing a heck of a job.”
But his muffed punt, which led directly to a Pittsburgh touchdown, was a mistake the undrafted Boise State product can’t afford in his battle for a roster spot. Even in Friday’s practice, he had an interception slip through his hands. Safety Andrew Adams grabbed it, but Deayon knows ball security is critical.
“I’m always going to try to be aggressive as a returner to make the plays, but I also have to be smart,” Deayon said of the fumbled punt last week. “We talk about protecting the Duke is the number one thing, so I have to do that first. Whether I made a big play or not, it’ll be all focused on that ball. So whether I’m on punt return or defense, I still gotta make sure I make the catch before I get running.”
ROSTER MOVES, INJURY UPDATES, NOTES
Running back Shaun Draughn completed his second straight practice as the veteran journeyman looks to debut as a Giant after recovering from ankle surgery and missing all of camp … DB Eli Apple (ankle) didn’t do much at practice for a second straight day. WR Darius Powe (undisclosed) continued to work on the side … Spagnuolo is pushing his secondary to improve on 2016: “We gave up too many explosive pass plays, that’s not all the secondary. I know the guys feel that, too; everyone wants to get better.” … The Giants signed WRs Canaan Severin and Ed Eagan and waived injured receivers Keeon Johnson (foot) and Kevin Snead (hamstring). Severin, 24, played at the University of Virginia and was originally signed by the Steelers as an undrafted free agent last year. Eagan, 24, played at Northwestern State (La.) and was originally signed by the Dallas Cowboys as an undrafted free agent last year.
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