The New York Giants are one of the heritage franchises of the NFL. Big Blue built their championship legacy on defense. Players like Leonard Marshall, Carl Banks, Osi Umenyiora, Michael Strahan, and Hall of Famer Lawrence Taylor destroyed offensive lines. But with training camp underway, the Giants currently lack a dominant pass rusher. Defensive coordinator James Bettcher hopes outside linebacker Lorenzo Carter, a second-year player drafted in the third round, will become a force on the defensive line. And Carter must produce, because general manager Dave Gettleman waited again until the third round to draft a new pass rusher. Old Dominion’s Oshane Ximines will battle linebackers Markus Golden and Kareem Martin for snaps. Giants fans, the media, and observers are skeptical this defense can disrupt opposing offenses. That’s why the New York Giants lack of a pass rush will doom their defense all season long.
New York Giants Pass Rush Problem
The Giants finished the 2018 regular season with a total of just 30 sacks. The only other team in the NFL with fewer sacks was the Oakland Raiders, who traded linebacker Khalil Mack before the start of the 2018 season. The Giants leading sacker was defensive end Olivier Vernon (seven), who battled injuries and was eventually traded to the Cleveland Browns this off-season. Aside from the actual sacks, the Giants didn’t pressure opposing quarterbacks either. Ryan Dunleavy of NJ.com broke down the defense’s lack of a pass rush in November 2018. He wrote, “Whether you sack the quarterback or not,” Giants coach Pat Shurmur said…, “pressure is what you’re trying to get.” But, according to Pro Football Focus, through nine games, the Giants had:
- 119 total pressures, which ranked 31st in the NFL
- 81 quarterback hurries, which ranked tied for 28th in the NFL
- 28 quarterback hits, which ranked tied for 20th in the NFL
The pass rush did not improve over the second half of the season. The Giants fired Steve Spagnuolo as defensive coordinator in 2018. New defensive coordinator James Bettcher was considered one of the most aggressive young coaches in the league when hired. And he loves to blitz. The Arizona Cardinals, under Bettcher, were tied for fifth in the NFL in blitz percentage in 2017. The Giants only blitzed 18.4 percent of the time, per PFF.
No Real Improvement
Ralph Vacchiano, NFL and Giants insider who’s currently with SNY, also warns the New York Giants pass rush will doom the defense. He predicts the Giants will not have a player top the team-leading seven sacks from a year ago. Vacchiano wrote on Yahoo! Sports, “the Giants didn’t take any obvious steps to improve their putrid pass rush from a year ago.”
“They think it’s better, but they’re basing that on the hope that Carter (four sacks) can take a big, second-year leap, that free agent linebacker Markus Golden can rediscover his pre-ACL tear form, and that with the inside presence of massive rookie Dexter Lawrence, maybe B.J. Hill (5.5 sacks) can be more dangerous.”
The New York Giants, under GM Dave Gettleman, have shown a reluctance to sign top-tier free agents. But Big Blue should not wait to fill their glaring need on their defensive line. ESPN’s Bill Barnwell believes Gettleman’s work is not done and they should bring in a free agent to bolster the pass rush. Hopefully, Big Blue’s front office is keeping an eye on other team rosters as training camps get underway in July. But if they’re soliciting advice, the two linebackers the Giants should consider are Nick Perry and Sam Acho.
Matt Lombardo of NJ.com wrote, “At age 28, Nick Perry can still be a productive member of a pass rush rotation. Despite being plagued by injuries the past three seasons, Perry has 19.5 sacks, 114 total tackles, 20 tackles for loss and 33 quarterback hits over that span. Perry, chosen by the Packers in the first round of the 2012 NFL Draft, is exactly the type of under the radar veteran the Giants should be targeting.”
Sam Acho is a strong veteran presence who suffered a season-ending torn pectoral muscle in October 2018. He would theoretically sign for the veteran’s minimum but would add depth, experience, and leadership to the Giants young locker room.