Gerris and Bryan - A tale of two LBs

By now every self-respecting Giants fan, on the message boards and otherwise, has an opinion of which player should be receiving the lion's share of the snaps at weak side linebacker. While Gerris Wilkinson is technically the starter since he opens up the game with the starting defensive 11, rookie Bryan Kehl has played just as much as Wilkinson – and at times better.

Before making an ever-so-slightly educated guess, TGI decided to check with the real experts on this topic – defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo and linebackers coach Bill Sheridan.

"We're still looking for somebody to step up and be the guy," Spags explained. "Bryan's a rookie so he's going to make rookie mistakes whereas Gerris has been around a little longer so he might be a little ahead of the game. But we do like what both of them are doing. We always like it when there are more guys involved."

Thus far, the players have been splitting series, whether a quick three-and-out or a lengthy 10-play drive. And both have showed themselves well through the first three games.

"We've been splitting them by series, for obvious reasons," Sheridan said of New York's approach. "They're both good players and both deserve playing time."

Sheridan ranks Wilkinson a hair ahead, mostly because he's been around a little longer.

"Maybe compared to the entire group, Gerris is a bit of a veteran, but as far as playing time, he's still a first-time starter for us," Sheridan said. "He's done a very solid job."

Both coaches have been plenty pleased with the play of Kehl, who basically forced their hand into splitting up the playing time.

"It's great that Bryan's been getting playing experience," Sheridan said. "One, he's deserving of it. Two, he's a developing player that we think has a very bright future. It's been nice to have him get in there."

"He's very athletic. He's probably one of the more athletic linebackers in the group," Spagnuolo said of Kehl. "He has some natural linebacker skills. When he played at BYU, 95 percent of what he did was up at the line of scrimmage, but he's getting better and better at making reads."

Going forward it all depends on who's playing better. Let the best man win. "We may start playing Gerris two out of three (series), because Gerris has been playing solid for a couple weeks," Sheridan said. "And the reverse of that could happen down the road. If there were a couple games where Bryan was distinctly playing better maybe he'd play two out of three.

"Gerris is working to try to lock the job down and be the full-time starter." So, who do you think should be the strongest man on the weak side? TGI's going with Kehl. There may be some learning curve-related bumps along the way, but the potential for him to become a big-time NFL linebacker is obviously there.

Bye week rankings

The Giants hit the bye week in great shape, statistically. Big Blue was ranked third in the entire league offensively, averaging 400.3 yards per game. Defensively, Spags' unit was sixth in the NFL, allowing 252.3 yards per game. While you'll see in Double Coverage that both the lack of turnovers forced and the shoddy kickoff coverage are definitely areas in which the Giants must improve, there's one more item that was surely on Tom Coughlin's bye-week to-do list: results in the green zone.

It's no secret that the Giants offense could do a much better job inside the opponents' 20-yard line. Against Cincinnati, New York settled for field goals on three of its five trips inside the Coughlin-labeled green zone. For the season, the Giants have scored touchdowns on five of 11 possessions close to the goal line, a 45.5 percentage that is 13th in the NFC and 21st in the NFL.

If Big Blue can start crossing the goal line at a greater clip, things could start to get even more fun around these here parts.

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