Jon Beason shows he has plenty to offer at linebacker

It had been a while since new Giants middle linebacker Jon Beason had turned the football field into his personal canvas, patrolling sideline to sideline to put his indelible imprint on a game.

He was once the gold standard at the position, a savant in shoulder pads and a helmet, always a step ahead of the action. He had more than 120 tackles in each of his first four seasons and earned three straight Pro Bowl berths (2008-2010). He was a natural.

Drafted in the first round (25th overall) by Carolina in 2007, Beason started as a rookie. He started every game his first four seasons, going 3½ seasons without missing a defensive snap.

Then, injuries derailed his career. In the 2011 opener, he ruptured his left Achilles. Last October, he underwent micro fracture surgery on his right knee and had a torn labrum repaired in his left shoulder. He played a total of five games in those two seasons.

At 28, the Panthers felt he was done, despite having signed him to a five-year, $50 million contract that included $25 million guaranteed before the 2011 season. He was traded to the Giants for a conditional late-round pick Oct 4.

"Sometimes perception isn’t necessarily reality," Beason said.

On Thursday, Beason made his first start at middle linebacker in more than a year and was a tackling machine in the Giants’ 27-21 loss in Chicago. Displaying exceptional lateral quickness and instincts, he finished with a team-high 12 tackles (11 solo) and sparked a second-half defensive surge that held the Bears to three points.

Beason was prepared for the workload. He and outside linebacker Spencer Paysinger shared the play-calling duties, which are normally handled by the middle linebacker.

"I felt good," said Beason, who replaced Mark Herzlich. "I’m a little sore, but that just means that I went to work. I felt like I moved around well. I just wanted to do my job and make coach proud and try to show that this was a good move for the Giants and a good move for me."

It was a performance that excited coach Tom Coughlin.

"He played hard, he played physical, he’s going to help us," Coughlin said. "He’s a good football player, obviously, very good against the run. He had a lot of tackles, was very much a force in the game in that respect. There’s a lot to learn. Jon’s going to get better and better."

Beason, a well-sculpted 6-foot, 237-pounder, impressed immediately upon his arrival and started against Chicago despite practicing only once in pads. Giants defensive coordinator Perry Fewell said Beason’s in-line quickness and football IQ jumped out in that first practice.

"He’s a middle linebacker," said Paysinger, who gave Beason his No. 52. "That’s exactly what he is. That’s what he gets paid to do. He knows how to be a middle linebacker."

Beason’s departure from Carolina was amicable. Days before the trade, he had gone into coach Ron Rivera’s office to ask for more playing time after being benched. But the Panthers felt he had lost a step.

After starting the first two games this season at weakside linebacker, he was replaced by former Giant Chase Blackburn. Last season, an injured Beason lost his starting middle linebacker job to rookie Luke Kuechly.

"I’m very confident in who I am," Beason said. "I know what I can do. I know what I’ve done and you can always bank on that. Obviously, I’d like to be in better shape but when you’re coming back from an injury, you have to recover from that before you can get better. (Thursday night) wasn’t necessarily an affirmation but I think I can get so much better."

After bringing in a parade of retreads and castoffs that have included Dan Connor, Aaron Curry, Kyle Bosworth and Allen Bradford, perhaps Giants general manager Jerry Reese has hit on something in Beason.

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