Steve Spagnuolo sees Jon Beason possibly filling Antonio Pierce role on defense

EAST RUTHERFORD — Steve Spagnuolo knows Antonio Pierce isn't walking through the Giants' locker room door on the first day of training camp. Neither is Osi Umenyiora, Michael Strahan, or Antrel Rolle, for that matter.

Still, despite the lack of an unquestioned defensive leader in the locker room, the Giants' defensive coordinator knows it is a matter of time before a player rises to the occasion and seizes that role.

"That's going to take a little bit of time," Spagnuolo said during his first public remarks on Saturday since being re-hired by the Giants. "There are guys in that room that we're working with right now that I know in the past, having listened to other coaches or watching the Giants from afar, that I think there's some good leaders there and I think you always have got to develop more.

"Sometimes when leaders leave the program or system, some guys jump up that you would have never expected. Sometimes leadership lids are removed and guys that you never even would have thought would step to the forefront. I'm anxious to see who that might be."

A natural candidate for defensive captain would be Jon Beason, a middle linebacker who has struggled to stay on the field the past three seasons because of injuries. Beason has all of the attributes that Spagnuolo loved in Pierce: Natural football intelligence, veteran experience, the respect of his peers, and, when healthy, a solid football player, even at 30 years old.

Spagnuolo said the relationship between defensive coordinator and middle linebacker is one of the most important of any coach and player. Pierce acted as Spagnuolo's field general in 2007 and 2008, responsible for getting guys lined up correctly and relaying the defensive calls. Spagnuolo and Beason are starting from ground zero as far as building that trust, but he's seen plenty from the Giants linebacker over his nine NFL seasons to know what he brings to the table.

"I remember Jon coming out of Miami and I have friends down in Carolina that were with him and I remember talking about Jon Beason before he even became a Giant," Spagnuolo said. "Everything was complimentary and you've got to love those guys that like the chess game. [Linebacker] Jameel McClain is the same guy, and I have some experience with him in Baltimore, so it's nice to have a couple of guys like that and I'm sure there'll be some other guys."

McClain and cornerback/safety Chykie Brown are the only two Giants defenders who played under Spagnuolo, having coached both players as a defensive assistant for the Ravens. Spagnuolo said he would lean on those guys to help relay some of the concepts and schemes that are unfamiliar to this group.

"You take the good from all of the places and it will be easier if I'm trying to feed something to the guys about maybe something that we did or the way we did it in Baltimore and they could probably back it up and say he knows a little bit about what he's talking about because we were there, too."

Of course, if Spagnuolo really needs to remind his players that he knows what he's doing, he can always pull out that Super Bowl ring.

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