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Olivier Vernon comfortable with new role in Giants defense

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Big Blue’s shift from a 4-3 to a 3-4 defense will have Vernon playing outside linebacker

NFL: Philadelphia Eagles at New York Giants Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports

New York Giants defensive end Olivier Vernon battled through injuries to start 12 games at defensive end last season. This offseason the Giants hired James Bettcher as the team’s new defensive coordinator, who will install a 3-4 defense, different from the 4-3 defense played last season. The defensive change will move Vernon from defensive end to outside linebacker, a position that he has played some in the past.

“It’s nothing really different for me, I’ve done that in the past,” Vernon said. “Right now, it’s just different play calls, different terminology. So, that’s basically it.”

Bettcher said earlier this offseason that he envisions Vernon’s role to be similar of Arizona Cardinals outside linebacker Chandler Jones, who led the NFL in sacks last season.

“Yeah, I mean he was still rushing a whole lot,” Vernon said. “I think he led the league in sacks last year. So, he was still down there rushing and getting after the quarterback and when it came down to the schemes and stuff like that, using him and dropping him and stuff like that. So, we’ve just got to see.”

Whatever position Vernon plays next season, the Giants will still need him out on the field for a full season if they want to be more successful than last season on the defensive side of the ball. The games Vernon missed in 2017 were the first in his six-year career.

“Yeah, I missed my first game last year and it turned into four, so that wasn’t normal for me,” Vernon said. “So, my position is staying how it was before, always trying to stay healthy and play a full season. Once you’re healthy, you can be out there. If you’re not, you can’t make any plays for the team.”

After a tororious season on defense last season, the Giants will look to bounce back to their 2016 form. Vernon believes that the change in defensive scheme will give the defense a clean slate to work with.

“Yeah, I mean, it’s always good when you have a clean slate,” Vernon said. “I mean, I treat every year like a clean slate. You go every year, it doesn’t matter what you did last year, the year before. You come in and it starts at zero again. So, we haven’t even had our first practice yet, but I think I’m excited and everybody else is.”