One year ago, as the Giants engaged in ring-fittings and White House fetes, the plan at middle linebacker was to bring back Chase Blackburn after his significant contributions to a Super Bowl title, with the belief Blackburn’s hold on the position would face a stiff challenge from Mark Herzlich.

What was anticipated to be a bona fide battle never materialized, as Herzlich, entering his second NFL season, never took a quantum leap forward and Blackburn retained the starting role without getting pushed much at all. Herzlich started one game, did not distinguish himself and did not advance his cause as a future fixture in the middle of the defense.

A year later, Herzlich is back at it again, this time with the Giants coming off a non-playoff season and a woeful defensive performance. Blackburn is gone, having signed with the Panthers, and six-year veteran Dan Connor was signed in free agency, presumably to take Blackburn’s spot. Aaron Curry, a former first-round pick of the Seahawks, also was brought in to see if he can dust off his potential. Yet, as the organized team activity practices and the three-day minicamp came and went, it was Herzlich operating with the first-team defense and it will be Herzlich who enters training camp penciled into the starting job.

“Very commanding,” defensive coordinator Perry Fewell said when asked about Herzlich. “He’s taken a leadership role out there and I think he has some good respect from his teammates in some of the things he’s done in the OTAs. Obviously, we want to find out what happens when the pads come on.”

Entering his third year with the Giants, Herzlich continues the road back from the health scare that forced him to miss the 2009 season at Boston College after he was diagnosed with Ewing’s sarcoma, a rare form of bone cancer. Once considered a first-round talent, he had to stick on the Giants roster as an undrafted free agent and plays with a titanium rod inserted into his left femur.

Herzlich continues to serve as a spokesman for various health-related endeavors. He is the official co-host of the first NBC 4 and New York Giants Health & Fitness Expo this weekend at MetLife Stadium.