Perhaps that’s why Dillard said between rookie minicamp practices that the Giants “took a risk” by drafting him in the fourth round last month. Regardless, the determined middle linebacker wants to reward the Giants organization for having faith in him much the way he repaid the Cornhuskers coaching staff.
Dillard will enter training camp in legitimate position to earn a starting job as a rookie, if he can beat out third-year players Jonathan Goff and Bryan Kehl and fifth-year veteran Gerris Wilkinson for departed leader Antonio Pierce’s old spot.
“I feel like I can add energy and add talent,” said Dillard, who played in the middle and on the weak side for Nebraska. “But I’m just going to find my way onto the team, regardless if it’s at a linebacker spot or on special teams. Either way, I’m going to do the best I can at what the coaches ask of me. Then, if everything falls into place, then [starting is] what will happen.”
Dillard didn’t return to the starting lineup until the third game of Nebraska’s 2009 season largely because he was overweight after missing the final four games of his junior year due to an ankle injury. The Tulsa, Okla., native credits James Dobson, Nebraska’s strength and conditioning coach, with helping him return better than ever.
Playing behind star defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh, selected second overall by Detroit, Dillard finished second on the team in tackles with 83, despite missing starts. Dillard’s productivity, intelligence and energy intrigued the Giants.
They’re not concerned about the 6-0, 245-pound Dillard’s height, either.
“I had London Fletcher,” Perry Fewell, the Giants new defensive coordinator, said of a productive player he coached while with Buffalo. “London Fletcher was pretty good for us. As long as they can run and hit and intercept the football, I have no biases.”
Dillard dismissed the height issue as well.
“Height has nothing to do with it,” Dillard said, before referencing Gary Brackett, Indianapolis’ standout 5-11 middle linebacker. “It’s the heart and the way you go out there and the way you prepare. Ask Brackett if height means anything, and you’ll get the same answer. Obviously it doesn’t mean anything because he’s balling out. He’s doing a good job at it. He’s undersized, supposedly, so that doesn’t mean anything.”