After Stewart Bradley’s dislocated elbow against Dallas, rookie seventh round selection out of Mississippi State Jamar Chaney stepped in not only as the starter, but the starter at MIKE, which means he also had to handle the signals for the entire defense. Giants message boards ridiculed him, believing that Ahmad Bradshaw and Brandon Jacobs would run all over him. In the end, he had a stunning performance, and piled up 16 tackles to the Jonathan Goff’s 2 (the Giants MIKE linebacker). He was also credited with a forced fumble, all though that was more because he was in the vicinity of the football than because he actually stripped Mario Manningham. Always being around the football does pay dividends sometimes, though.
After his performance, some analysts such as Brian Baldinger have already declared Chaney to be one of the best middle linebackers in the league. Now, is this true? Certainly not yet, but he has the potential to be regarded as one. Most viewed Chaney as a third or fourth round prospect because of his speed and coverage abilities. He was the fastest linebacker in the draft, clocking in at 4.54 at the Combine and unofficially in the high 4.4s at his pro day. Most were concerned about his ability to attack downhill, shed blocks, and be powerful at the point of attack. Nobody is really sure why he fell so far on draft day, as no character red flags pop up anywhere around this rookie.
He looks like he is a perfect fit for this defense and made a very positive impression in New York in all phases of the game. The mistakes he made were in coverage, but he seemed much less tentative than he did in Dallas, where Jon Kitna pretty much had his way with him in coverage. The Giants’ fourth touchdown (the Eli-Boss connection in the fourth quarter) was Chaney’s responsibility as he bit on an underneath route when Quentin Mikell was expecting inside and underneath coverage on a seam route by Boss. Judging by Mikell’s reaction, the play was clearly on Chaney. Rookies will make these types of mistakes, though. Chaney went out there and made plays from start to finish against a very good, very balanced offensive attack. That is the most encouraging part of his outing.
He should see the field even without Stewart Bradley hurt. He is much better than Bradley in coverage due to his speed, and should be the third down MIKE. Also, if he can learn the other two linebacker spots, the Eagles will have the luxury of competition at the SAM and WILL spots. Additionally, Stewart Bradley, Ernie Sims, Omar Gaither, and Akeem Jordan will all be free agents this coming offseason, and the Eagles will not have to spend their money unnecessarily to bring guys back if they can get starter-like production out of Chaney and Moise Fokou.