The New York Giants have listed veteran linebacker Michael Boley as doubtful for Sunday night's game against the Philadelphia Eagles, and it seems extremely unlikely that Boley's injured hamstring will improve enough for Boley to play.
That means the spotlight will shine brightly on the four rookie linebackers the Giants have, and it could bring the first defensive snaps of the season for Mark Herzlich. the cancer survivor who made the Giants roster as an undrafted rookie free agent from Boston College.
There has been an increasing amount of speculation around the Giants this week that Herzlich will get an opportunity.
We want to see what he can do and how he will play in there. We already experienced the fact that he communicates well. He seems to know the defense and he can get us lined up. He is a big strong kid in there," said Giants head coach Tom Coughlin.
"He is a big man and he is physical. Mark is a go getter. He is one of those 100 percent guys that if he sees something, he is going to go smack it and ask questions later," said defensive coordinator Perry Fewell. "The thing that I really like about Mark, he is a student of the game."
"The better I play, the better my story gets," Herzlich said. "And obviously my goal right now during the season, in general right now, is to play better. I've beaten cancer, it's in my past, but at the same time I continue to be proud of what I've accomplished.
"I'm itching. I'm itching to play defense. I've been playing special teams my whole life, too. I mean, to people who don't play in the league or follow it real closely, they think special teams is just something off to the side. Just because the camera doesn't follow us on every play doesn't mean we don't take it very seriously. I know we take a lot of pride in special teams. If I get a chance in defense, great; if I don't, I'll get my pride on special teams."
Rookies Greg Jones and Jacquian Williams have had significant playing time already this season on defense, and Spencer Paysinger made his defensive debut last week when Boley was injured.
"I was pleased that they went in and didn't panic. That was a big game for them to be in. We had some mistakes with them but for the most part, they did well. They had a couple bad plays in there that were critical mistakes that they made but I think they will get experience, learn and get better from it," Fewell said. " We will make some changes so that hopefully we can eliminate or reduce some of those errors so that they won't occur."