It’s been too long since the New York Giants have generated a consistent pass rush. The days of Michael Strahan, Osi Umenyiora, Justin Tuck and Jason Pierre-Paul creating havoc in an opponent’s backfield are long gone. But the formula of putting pressure on the quarterback is still the quickest path for a team to become a contender. Heading into training camp, the Giants still haven’t solved their pass rushing issues.
Last season was a disaster as the Giants defense ranked 22nd in the NFL with 36 sacks. The unit’s overall play was poor. Sure, they could rush the quarterback for one of two games, but they could not sustain that level of consistency for an entire season. And if improvement isn’t shown in 2020, the odds are high the Giants will struggle to reach .500 once again.
New York Giants Still Haven’t Solved Their Pass Rush Issues
Viable Outside Pass Rushing Options
The New York Giants will be hard-pressed to add a proven pass-rusher to the roster before the start of the season. It’s been widely documented how former Giants general manager Jerry Reese left the pass rushing cupboard bare for far too long.ree
Two of his high draft choices (Damontre Moore in 2013 and Owa Odighizuwa in 2015) were downright busts. Also, Reese over-paid for Olivier Vernon ($85 million), because, while Vernon started out as a quality signing, injuries slowed his on-field production. Over the years, these mistakes have left the Giants with few pass rushing options.
But let’s get serious, the Giants shouldn’t be linked to either Jadeveon Clowney or Yannick Ngakoue, who are still available on the open or trade market. Both players will cost the franchise precious salary cap space and multiple high draft choices. Clowney and Ngakoue will garner a big money contract regardless if it’s via free agency or trade. For those reasons alone both players can be taken out of consideration for the Giants. Thus, the Giants only realistic option is re-signing Markus Golden.
Possible Reconciliation Between the Giants and Markus Golden
If there is going to be reconciliation between the Giants and Golden, it will not take place before the first day of training camp. Team general manager Dave Gettleman placed the little-known “May 5” tender on Golden, which will pay the talented edge rusher $4.125 million for the coming season. Golden can still negotiate with other teams until July 22nd. After that date, he cannot play for another team except for the Giants. Gettleman used a seldom-used provision in the league’s bylaws, which might gain the Giants a compensatory draft pick if Golden signs elsewhere.
Golden is inching his way towards becoming an elite edge pass rusher. Last season, he came into his own as he recorded 10 sacks and 27 quarterback hits in 16 games played. Golden uses his quickness and strength to neutralize a tackle at the line of scrimmage. Few opponents can match his athleticism off the snap of the ball.
Kyler Fackrell and Lorenzo Carter
Excluding Golden from the current mix on the roster, the Giants have a group of young, unproven pass-rushers. New defensive coordinator Patrick Graham is counting on Kyler Fackrell and Lorenzo Carter to transform themselves into better all-around defenders. Neither player has been given the snaps required to fulfill their potential.
Looking to resuscitate his NFL career, Fackrell signed a one-year free agent deal with the Giants this off-season. Re-uniting with Graham, who was his position coach with the Green Bay Packers, gives Fackrell a chance to reestablish himself as a pass rusher. In 2018, he recorded 10.5 sacks, but his playing time was cut significantly the following season. The free agent signing of Za’Darius Smith and Preston Smith reduced Fackrell’s defensive snap percentage from 58.6 in 2018 to 39.9 last season. Signing with the Giants gives Fackrell an opportunity to showcase his ability at getting to the quarterback.
The biggest enigma with Carter is his struggle to fulfill his potential. He came to to the Giants with high expectations, but only registered 8.5 sacks in 30 games played. The argument can be made that Carter played out of position under the previous coaching regime. He mostly played in passing situations and struggled badly with maintaining coverage off the line of scrimmage. Now under Graham, Carter gets the chance to bend the edge in getting to the quarterback. This approach gained him notoriety in college, but not yet in the pros.
The Giants rebuild is a work-in-progress, but it’s time to see significant improvement in the area of rushing the quarterback. The mindset isn’t just about being tough, but being the toughest for 16 weeks. If this current group can’t get the job done, a new unit will be given a chance in 2021.
The clock is ticking.