Sintim Has What it Takes to be True LB

It wasn't long after the Giants in the second round of the NFL Draft made linebacker Clint Sintim their pick with the 45th overall selection that the analysis began. Where would he play? What are his strengths? Can he drop in coverage? What about the transition from the 3-4 defensive front he played at Virginia to the 4-3 he'll play with the Giants?

There was all this verbiage wondering where he fits. Sintim didn't seem particularly interested in breaking himself down in that manner.

"I'm just a linebacker,'' he said. "At the end of the day I'm just a linebacker. I can't sit here and say I'm the greatest at this or that but one thing I can say is that I'm willing to work and learn and just make myself a better player. This organization is a great organization. It is a great city. I'm just trying to match my ability so I can do whatever I can to kind of help out.''

Just a linebacker will be good enough for the Giants, just as long as Sintim develops into just a very good one. This is not the usual course of action for a franchise that, despite its history of terrific players at the position, has often – especially lately – treated linebacker as something of an afterthought. The last time the Giants drafted a linebacker as high as the second round was way back in 1991 when they took Kanavis McGhee out of Colorado. Since then, it's mostly been a case of signing free agents – Carlton Bailey, Michael Brooks, Mike Croel, Micheal Barrow, Carlos Emmons, Barrett Green, Antonio Pierce, LaVar Arrington come to mind.

Most of those signings were duds and in well over a decade the only truly excellent linebacker they developed through the draft was Jessie Armstead, taken in the eighth round in 1993.

And so, even though the Giants in free agency added to their corps with the signing of Michael Boley from the Falcons to anchor the weak side spot, they saw fit to select Sintim as high as they did. He's a 6-2, 256-pound athlete who already looks like he belongs in the NFL, with great size and long arms. Sintim holds the Virginia school record for sacks by a linebacker with 27. He was a team captain and is yet another natural pass-rusher to add to the arsenal the Giants have already stockpiled.

"He is a heck of a pass rusher,'' director of college scouting Marc Ross said. "That is what we liked about him. He is a physical at the point of attack guy. He can really rush the passer – 11 sacks this year. He has played out in space for Virginia – played at the line as a D-end and played linebacker. So he is a smart guy that can play multiple positions. The way we use our guys in various ways, he will fit in there perfectly. But he is a big guy who is physical. And he is a presence at the line.''

The term commonly used to describe Sintim is "hybrid.'' He will line up at strong side linebacker but his most impressive asset is his ability to put his hand on the ground and rush the quarterback from the edge, just like a defensive end.

"Coming in I wouldn't put him in a bunch of different spots,'' said first-year defensive coordinator Bill Sheridan, who formerly was the linebackers coach. "I'm going to try to let him play SAM, which is what he played in college. When he comes in we are just going to line him up at SAM, get him oiled up, at least through the spring, with that kind of stuff. But he can play in coverage. On third down he is a good, dynamic pass rusher. He is going to come in the door and weigh 255 pounds, so we are not going to have him playing the nickel inside linebacker and drop back and cover. We are going to put him with [defensive line coach Mike] Waufle and teach him our pass rush schemes. But on first and second down he will play SAM. He did all of the drop stuff at Virginia and had no problem with that stuff. He will be a really good on-the-line player over the tight end because he is so big and physical.''

To get on the field, Sintim will also have to show some aptitude in the running game. "To me he is an excellent run guy,'' new linebackers coach Jim Herrmann said. "He can set an edge; very strong, very long arms, good upper body. And the thing that he does really well is that he also had an extra bonus – the pass rush also. But he will be a dual guy. He will be able to play on all three downs.''

There is no immediate urgency for Sintim to be rushed into action. The Giants have Danny Clark returning on the strong side and have third-year Zak DeOssie as insurance – although DeOssie, the long-snapper for punts, hasn't played at all on defense.

Sintim realizes all this. "You have to understand – you play with grown men everyday,'' he said. "This is a game that is physical and it demands a lot physically and mentally. And you are playing with guys who have wives and kids and have been doing it for quite some time. I'm just going to have to bring my hard hat everyday and just compete and really just try to be a playmaker – just do whatever I can to help the organization out. I've been blessed to be in a situation that I am in.''

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