Herzlich is still widely lauded for his recovery, but his comeback story has been told and re-told. This summer, it received relatively little attention. Now Herzlich is noticed more for his football ability, which is his preference.
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Last year, he played in 16 games with two starts and contributed a career-high 32 tackles (26 solo) and a pass defensed and a team-high 14 tackles (12 solo) on special teams. This preseason, Herzlich has 11 tackles (for solo) on defense and an assisted tackle on special teams.
But this year the Giants have an improved group of linebackers that includes veteran Jameel McClain and rookie Devon Kennard. Herzlich enters the Giants’ preseason finale against New England tomorrow knowing nothing about his status is guaranteed.
“They look at the total sum of your work and evaluate you on that,” Herzlich said. “And they also look toward the season - ‘Okay, what are we going to need? What spots are we going to need? What body types are we going to need on special teams and on defense or offense or whatever it is.’ So all that comes into play when they make their decisions. Being a GM and being up there in that room, you’ve got to make tough choices. That’s the business of it.”
Herzlich’s most frequent and noticeable contributions have been on specials teams. He appreciates playing for Tom Coughlin, who emphasizes that phase of football.
“I don’t know other teams, but special teams are big (here),” Herzlich said. “Coach Coughlin says he’s the 12th man on the punt team every single week. That’s how much he cares about it. When we stand up in our meetings on Saturday, ‘First punt, stand up,’ and coach Coughlin stands up. That’s kind of the feeling here. Whoever’s out there has this expectation for the position, not necessarily for the person. We want to be a better special teams unit than we were last year, and hopefully I can help do that.”
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- The linebackers are also stronger because of the improvement in fourth-year pro Jacquian Williams, who has locked down the starting weakside job.
“He had a really good fall,” Coughlin said. “He is healthy and has a good feel for his position. He has good energy. (He had a) very inspired camp.”
With the additions of Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, Walter Thurmond, Quintin Demps and Zack Bowman, the Giants believe they have their best secondary in years. One player who is convinced that’s true is defensive end Mathias Kiwanuka, who should know – he’s entering his ninth season with the team.
“There is no doubt about it,” Kiwanuka said. “If you saw some of the plays that we’ve made in the last couple weeks, you know that there are obviously flashes of it. But we come out here every day, all the way up and down, from the guys that you think of all the way to guys who are backing up, they’re doing great things. I think Z-Bow, Zack Bowman, he’s one of the guys who doesn’t get a lot of attention but once a day, he’s got a pick. That’s part of the thing I’m excited about. We’ll do our job up front and then we’ll have fun watching them work back there.”
- The Giants will conclude their preseason tomorrow night with a home game against New England. They will then have an 11-day break before opening the regular season on Monday, Sept. 8 in Detroit.
“We have one more to go and then it’s for real the next time we suit up,” wide receiver Victor Cruz said. “(The sense of urgency) is kind of up there; it’s getting a little high. But we understand that we have to look at what we have on Thursday and be able to do some good things on the field that day, and get things better offensively, build more continuity. Then we can prepare for Week 1.”
- The Giants would conclude their preseason with a 5-0 record if they defeat the Patriots. It would be their first undefeated preseason since they were 4-0 in 2006 and their first in a preseason of more than four games since they were 5-0 in 1985.
Of course, preseason records are quickly forgotten as soon as the regular season begins. But if the Giants do conclude their August schedule unblemished, Ryan Nassib will be proud of the accomplishment, because as the backup quarterback, he will have made a significant contribution to those victories.
“I think it would mean a lot,” Nassib said. “I think it would be a good launch point into the season. I think it would help us with our confidence level and stuff like that.”
Nassib has completed 63.3 percent of his passes and thrown for five touchdowns and no interceptions, numbers that impress almost everyone but him.
“There’s a fine line with that stuff,” Nassib said. “You ask pretty much any football player and they’ll always say they’re not satisfied. There’s always stuff you can correct, there’s always stuff you can get better at. We’re just fortunate enough to have one more game to work on some of the mistakes we’ve made so far and keep building.”
- This will be the 10th consecutive year the Giants and Patriots will close the preseason by facing one another. New England won last year in Foxboro, 28-20, but the Giants lead the preseason series, 14-9. The teams first met in the preseason in 1971.