Leading into the July 27 opening of Giants training camp, The Post will analyze 11 position groups based on personnel, strengths, weaknesses and key depth-chart battles. Today’s look-in: Edge rusher.
From the outside looking in, this has to be considered a shaky spot for the Giants. Where are the proven pass rushers? Not anywhere on the roster, that’s for sure. The best edge rusher in 2020, Kyler Fackrell (four sacks) was not re-signed and is now with the Chargers. Markus Golden (1.5 sacks) never got going with the new Giants coaching staff and was traded to the Cardinals. There are players returning from injury, youngsters who displayed flashes, two interesting rookie draft picks and some low-level free agents worth taking low-risk flyers on. The Giants have 10 players listed on the depth chart at this position, and those 10 players combined for a total of six NFL sacks last season. Not exactly high-octane stuff. The Giants hope the future with these players is more promising than the résumés they’ve already compiled.
Lorenzo Carter, Oshane Ximines, Azeez Ojulari, Ifeadi Odenigbo, Elerson Smith, Carter Coughlin, Cam Brown, Ryan Anderson, Niko Lalos, Trent Harris.
There are legitimate questions about every player with NFL pedigree. Start with Carter. What is he, exactly? His first two seasons (total of 8.5 sacks) were barely intriguing and never overwhelming in any way, and in 2020 he played in five games (one sack) before going down with a ruptured Achilles’ tendon. Does he make a full recovery? Is he a long-armed, rangy outside defender with sideline-to-sideline capability or just another guy? Ximines did a few good things (4.5 sacks) as a rookie, but his second NFL season was a washout, as he lasted only four games before landing on injured reserve and needing rotator cuff surgery. As a small-school prospect, he needs to prove himself to this new coaching staff. Coughlin and Brown did not get many pass-rush opportunities as rookies. Odenigbo, 27, has 10.5 career sacks, including seven for the Vikings in 2019. Anderson has six career sacks in four years in Washington — none in nine games last season. Ojulari could be the X factor here. He had 9.5 sacks in 10 games at Georgia in 2020, and in some scouting circles, he was considered the best pass rusher in the draft. If there is any semblance of truth to this, the Giants getting him at No. 50 overall is a steal. Smith dominated at a lower level of competition, with 14 sacks, 14 quarterback hits and 21.5 tackles for loss at Northern Iowa in 2019 (his school did not play football last fall) and might be a project that needs time to develop.
It will be hot and heavy all summer. There are starting jobs to be won and roster spots to save and cuts to be avoided. Ojulari will be given every chance to vault into a prominent role. Carter and Ximines must show they are fully healed and ready to compete at a high level, as they could be in danger of getting passed by — remember, the Joe Judge coaching staff inherited them. It feels like a make-or-break sort of year up ahead for Carter, a third-round pick in 2018. More was expected of him than what he has shown.
The one possible riser here is Ojulari. He looks the part and, coming from Georgia, should be ready to roll pretty much right away. He faces an acclimation period but probably not an extended one. Defensive coordinator Patrick Graham had to be exceedingly creative in 2020 to find ways to apply pressure from the edges and the hope around the team is he does not have to be quite so creative this time around. Given the talent assembled, that is definitely more hope than expectation. If there is a beast in this group he has yet to roar, growl or menace.
Next up: Tight ends.