EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) — Micah McFadden was so uncomfortable playing inside linebacker as a rookie with the New York Giants last season that watching postgame film was like viewing a horror show for him.
Things have changed in his second season.
Not only is the 23-year-old McFadden comfortable, he has pulled in front of former roomie Darrian Beavers in the competition to start next to Bobby Okereke for the other inside linebacker spot.
Veteran Jarrad Davis was supposed to be the other inside linebacker, but he injured a knee in the offseason — leaving the two second-year linebackers to face off.
“I’ll tell you, I thought Micah played really well in the game. He did a lot of good things,” defensive coordinator Wink Martindale said Tuesday. “I think that this is truly Beavers’ rookie year because of the ACL, and he’s missed so many practices that Micah’s got a year under his belt. It’s a good competition and Micah is definitely leading right now. So, we’ll see where that goes and where that takes it.”
McFadden, who started seven of 17 games last season, took the compliment with a grain of salt.
“It’s the middle of camp and I’m just trying to get better every day, show them that I’m improving on, you know, all the fundamentals and techniques that they want to see,” he said. “But, yeah, it’s good to hear.”
A fifth-round draft pick out of Indiana, McFadden started in the Giants’ 21-16 preseason loss to the Detroit Lions on Friday. He was on the field for 14 plays and assisted on one tackle. He also had a tackle on special teams, where he is bound to play a big role again.
McFadden finished his rookie season with 59 tackles, two sacks and a forced fumble.
“I’ll be honest, a lot of times I didn’t want to go back and watch the film just because I knew before even watching, I knew how I played,” he said. “It’s a feel thing, you know, when you’re out on the field, when you’re out on the field, you can kind of tell, you could tell how you’re doing every play.”
There were good things. But for the majority of time, McFadden felt he struggled.
Playing in college and the pros were very different. He was not comfortable in coverage. He got caught out of position several times because he guessed what hole a runner was going to hit. The worst thing was trying to figure out his assignments and then being forced to adjust responding to movement by the offense.
“You play better when you play free and you just know the defense and know where your job is,” McFadden said. “But then on top of that, you can play instinctively and play ball.”
Okereke, who signed a $40 million contract with the Giants in the offseason, brings four years of experience to the inside linebacker group and ton of talent. He was a tackling machine with the Colts and has the added ability to cover running backs in passing situations.
He has been tutoring Beavers and McFadden.
The one thing that has stuck with McFadden is Bobby O’s advice: “Calm mind, calm feet.” In other words, if you know what you are doing, the mind and feet will get you there to make the play.
That’s all McFadden wants at this point. He described the 2022 season as not up to his standard.
McFadden said he didn’t even have to look at the videotapes after the first preseason game. He knew he had done his job.
“I felt calmer, my feet felt good, my hands, how good my eyes were, you know, where they needed to be on every rep,” he said.
If he keeps that up, he’ll be starting against the Cowboys on Sept. 10 in a nationally televised game.
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