Keith Bulluck won't be the starting middle linebacker for the Giants this season. No big surprise there as Bulluck had never played the position before and no one ever said it was easy for an old dog to learn new tricks. He's moving back outside, although that only begins to explain where he'll be playing this season.
Giants defensive coordinator Perry Fewell uses different terminology to refer to the strongside and weakside linebackers in his defense. Most teams refer to the strongside backer as "SAM" and the weakside one as "WILL" because they share the same first letter as the side of the field they call home. Fewell uses "SAM" and "WILL" but places them opposite from their traditional location.
Or so we think.
Mike Garofalo of the Star-Ledger does yeoman's work trying to put it all in order, but the whole thing makes your head hurt about as much as trying to figure out how time travel works in sci-fi films. It seems easiest to just say that there are three linebackers who play in the base defense on one side of the field or another. Maybe they'll all even line up on the same side of the field sometimes just to make the whole thing that much more confusing.
All of this worry about what everyone is called makes for a nice distraction from the fact that the linebacking crew still doesn't look particularly strong. Michael Boley is good in pass coverage, but his job calls for him to line up over the tight end and he's struggled to get off of blocks and make plays against the run. Jonathan Goff was overmatched in the middle last season and hasn't shown much improvement even though there are better defensive tackles in front of him this year. Bulluck is probably the best of the lot, but his move outside means that Clint Sintim still isn't doing enough to be on the field with regularity.
Unless Gerris Wilkinson winds up replacing Boley -- they are splitting reps -- and Phillip Dillard supplants Goff in the middle. We're all for having a versatile band of players at linebacker, but you'd be a fool to think that having six average guys who can play well in certain situations is better than being locked into a couple of guys who can thrive against both the run and the pass. Teams are too smart and do too much scouting to not pick up on those weaknesses and exploit them.
There's also some disappointment because Bulluck probably won't be able to step into the void left by Antonio Pierce as the voice of the Giants huddle if he's not in the middle. You can lead from any spot, of course, but the middle backer has long been the man who helped adjust the defense to what's going on during games. The hope would be that this also works differently in Fewell's scheme because the Giants clearly lost something when Pierce's body gave out last season.