The NFL‘s eighth-ranked total defense has just been infused with a jolt of elite run-stuffing. The New York Giants have officially activated linebacker David Mayo off of injured reserve. A 13-game starter from a season ago, Mayo missed the first five games of 2020 after undergoing surgery to repair a torn meniscus suffered in the latter end of training camp.
The 27-year-old is expected to make his season debut this Sunday against Washingon, likely manning an early-down/run-down role on defense as well as on special teams, where he logged 264 snaps a year ago.
A Pro Football Focus darling in his first season with the Giants, Mayo finished 2019 as the analytic site’s No. 2 ranked run-defender at his position. Mayo, New York’s returning leading tackler, finished last season second behind current free-agent Antonie Bethea with 82 total tackles.
Mayo assumes an already vacant spot on New York’s 53-man roster, meaning there was no corresponding move made. With that said, North Jersey Media Group’s Art Stapleton believes that Mayo’s activation may open the door for Carter Caughlin to return to his original outside linebacker position at a full capacity. The rookie out of Minnesota had recently been moonlighting as an inside linebacker.
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Has Mayo Lost His Starting Job?
Yes… well, sort of. Partly. The fact of the matter is, rookie seventh-rounder Tae Crowder has leapfrogged his way atop the Giants’ depth chart in Mayo’s absence, and his play warrants a significant role moving forward.
Crowder’s explosiveness and coverage ability reign far superior to that of the somewhat athletically-limited Mayo. However, the same could be said, yet the other way around, when it comes to the linebackers’ prowess in the run game.
Kevin Sherrer, the Giants’ inside linebacker coach, touched on this matter recently with NewDay’s Tom Rock, detailing Crowder’s limited “play strength.”
His biggest thing is he needs to get a little more play strength. Continue to gain weight. He’s around the 230 range. Would like him a little heavier just to hold up to some of the size of the guys you’re dealing with.
While I would argue that 230-pounds is more than large enough for a modern-day linebacker to succeed in today’s NFL, there’s no denying that Mayo is far more stout at the point of attack.
While vastly underwhelming in the passing game, Mayo is arguably one of football’s very best run-stoppers, as PFF noted earlier this offseason, naming the linebacker Big Blue’s Most Improved Player from 2019:
Mayo earned the first extended starting role of his career in 2019 with the Giants after several ineffective seasons as a reserve for the Panthers. It was a tale of two phases of the game — run defense and coverage. Mayo was outstanding as a run defender, earning a run-defense grade of 90.1 that ranked second among all linebackers. In coverage, though, he was among the worst at the position, as his 48.8 coverage grade during the 2019 season ranked 70th among 89 qualifying linebackers. Obviously, you would rather have your linebackers excelling in the more valuable facet of the game (coverage), but the fact that Mayo was able to give elite play in run support in a starting role was a solid improvement.
Crowder will likely once again draw the start alongside prized free-agent addition Blake Martinez this Sunday. With that said, expect a heavy dose of Mayo sprinkled into the mix on early-downs moving forward, as the duo of Crowder and Mayo gives New York the best of both worlds.
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