Highlights and Low-lights:
Dan Connor was drafted by the Panthers out of Penn State in 2008, but he didn't become a starter in the NFL until 2010. In that season, Connor started the first eight games of the season and made 47 tackles. His best game came against the Chicago Bears when he set a career high with 14 tackles. It seemed like Connor was on track to become a solid NFL starter until he injured his left hip in November and missed the final eight games of the season.
In 2011, Connor was thrust into a starting role once again, but this time it was only because Jon Beason suffered a season-ending injury. Connor did end up playing in 15 games that season, but a total of 75 tackles was disappointing and didn't do much to further the notion that Connor was deserving of more playing time. The next season, Connor signed with the Dallas Cowboys and backed up fellow Penn State alum Sean Lee. After Lee suffered an injury, Connor ended up playing a fair amount, but he didn't produce well enough to inspire Dallas to retain him.
Recipe for Success:
It looks like Connor picked the right team to sign with in 2013, because the Giants do not have much going on at the linebacker position. The team decided to part ways with veterans Michael Boley and Chase Blackburn, and there is a lot of unproven talent on the roster. Connor shouldn't have to count on someone getting hurt in order to earn major playing time.
With that being said, Connor will still need to perform well in training camp and stay healthy in order to hold off younger players like Mark Herzlich and Aaron Curry. At age 27, Connor still has time to establish himself as a starting player, but it doesn't look like he'll ever be a three-down linebacker. His ability to shutdown the opposing rush attack will be a key to the veteran linebacker's success in New York. If he can't do that, the Giants would just as happily slide in a younger player who is less experienced but has a little more room for growth.
If Connor can have a good training camp, he has a legitimate chance to earn the Giants starting middle linebacker job. Provided that, a 100-tackle season for Connor isn't out of the question. It all comes down to him staying on the field. He missed three games over the past two seasons, and he's only had one season of 16 games played in his five-year career. It's nearly impossible to predict player health, but if Connor gets hurt, there would be plenty of hungry young players looking to take his place. Even losing a couple of games to injury could do major damage to Connor's chances of sticking at the middle linebacker spot.
A return to the 4-3 defense that he played with Carolina could be a big factor in Connor's resurgence. Last season, he was reportedly uncomfortable playing in a 3-4 with the Cowboys. That, combined with the fact that Connor is still young enough to have a breakout season, indicates that the journeyman linebacker can finally find a home and enjoy a career year in 2013 with the Giants.