Part seven in a series analyzing the New York Giants.
Forget hearkening back to the days of Michael Strahan, Osi Umenyiora, Justin Tuck and Jason Pierre-Paul when it comes to trying to figure out how the Giants of today will get after the opposing quarterback. A fearsome pass rush based on beating the man across the line and powering or jetting into the offensive backfield fueled Super Bowl victories after the 2007 and 2011 seasons. That was then. This is now, and the Giants are trying to rebuild what has been a moribund defense without star power roaring in from the edge.
Time has certainly not run out on Lorenzo Carter but his meter is close to expiring and the ticket guy is approaching Carter’s parked car. He looks the part and every so often he does something on the field that makes you think he can be what the Giants need him to be. He was a third-round pick in 2018 and this is exactly the kind of pick and type of player this franchise has gotten wrong far too often. DaMontre Moore and Owa Odighizuwa come to mind.
Carter has great size, long arms and more than enough athletic ability to produce as a versatile outside linebacker. He had four sacks as a rookie and 4.5 last season and the time for a step forward is now. He can drop in coverage — that elongated wingspan is helpful — and he can pursue the run. Will he develop into a double-digit sack guy? The Giants need him at least come close. Carter is affable, with diverse interests in art and as a musician. He insists there is a fire within him to be a dominant player. That fire must come out this season.
Oshane Ximines is like Moore, Odighizuwa and Carter in that he is a mid-round draft pick taken for the pass-rush prowess he showed in college. Ximines did it as a lower level — Old Dominion — and an adjustment to the biggest league was expected. Ximines had 4.5 sacks as a rookie and that whet everyone’s appetite. The Giants are banking on his development, like Carter a home-grown prospect the organization should be able to count on to make a difference.
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Dipping into free agency for Kyler Fackrell is more than a shot-in-the-dark but less than a bona fide answer. Fackrell has 16.5 career sacks and 10.5 of them came in 2018 when Patrick Graham, the new Giants defensive coordinator, was the linebackers coach working with Fackrell with the Packers. It is a one-year, $4.6 million prove-it deal for Fackrell and so there is plenty of incentive for him to rekindle the success he had two years ago.
The great unknown is Markus Golden. He did what was asked of him in 2019, proving he could stay healthy, stay on the field and produce. Golden played in all 16 games, had a career-high 68 tackles and easily led the Giants with 10 sacks. Playing on a one-year, prove-it deal after battling a knee injury for two years following his 12.5-sack year in 2016 with the Cardinals, Golden seemingly proved he was deserving of a longer commitment, but he has not generated much interest on the open market.
The Giants, unwilling to ante up, placed the rare unrestricted free agent tag on him, meaning if he does not get a better offer he reverts to the Giants on a one-year deal for $4.1 million. That would be a bargain. If Golden returns, he instantly adds credibility to a group that does not look like much when presenting résumés.
It looks as the Giants’ best pass-rush prospect out of this draft is Carter Coughlin, an outside linebacker from Minnesota taken in the seventh round. Anything out of him as a rookie should be considered a bonus. Undrafted free agent Oluwole Betiku had nine sacks in 2019 for Illinois and, raised in Nigeria, is fairly new to football and thus has upside.
“It’s one of those deals where sometimes people think that all of the sacks have got to come from one to two guys,’’ general manager Dave Gettleman said. “It’s a group effort. No, we didn’t draft what you guys would call a blue-goose pass-rusher, but a lot of the time it’s a group effort. It’s not about who gets the sacks, it’s about the number of sacks and the number of pressures.’’