Keenan Clayton might be exactly what the defense needs going into Sunday night's game with the Giants.
The second-year linebacker said that he will be featured in the team's nickel defense alongside Jamar Chaney. Clayton is young, hungry and determined to prove that he deserves that expanded role.
"I've been waiting for a long time for this. Now, I'm going to do everything I can to stay on the field, make them take me out," Clayton said. "I'm going to try and expand my hunger to everyone else. I'm going to let everyone know how hungry I am and hopefully they'll feed off of me and be just as hungry and come out of there with a win."
Last season, Clayton made his NFL debut in a similar role against the Indianapolis Colts. He was credited with one tackle, but his speed and coverage ability was crucial in keeping the Colts high-octane offense in check as the Eagles came out with the win. Clayton had 11 tackles as a rookie in 2010 and notched his first career sack in the playoff loss to the Packers.
This season, Clayton was in the mix for the weakside linebacker position, but has been a mainstay on special teams playing in seven of the team's first nine games. Even though the term nickel linebacker indicates that Clayton will play in the team's subpackage, Clayton noted that the nickel plays more snaps than the team's base 4-3 formation.
The Giants are without their top running back in Ahmad Bradshaw, who will miss his third straight game with a foot injury. The Giants are expected to lean heavily on quarterback Eli Manning and their four top receivers - wideouts Hakeem Nicks, Mario Manningham, Victor Cruz and tight end Jake Ballard. Even though speed has been Clayton's calling card, the former fourth-round pick doesn't want to be associated with a finesse label.
"To be honest, I'm going to try and be real physical with them," Clayton said. "Come out early and be physical. Start strong and finish fast."
Manning has had an outstanding season for the Giants. Back in Week 3, Manning tossed four touchdown passes in the New York win. Clayton is well aware of the challenge that he presents.
"He's playing out of his mind," Clayton said. "At the beginning of the year, he said he was an elite quarterback. I feel like he's on a mission to prove that. Our mission is to knock him off his course."
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