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Giants hope Olivier Vernon will make Chandler Jones-like transition to linebacker

New York Giants v Dallas Cowboys Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images

Chandler Jones was primarily a traditional 4-3 defensive end with the New England Patriots. In two seasons with the Arizona Cardinals, though, Jones transitioned to a outside linebacker role with resounding success.

In 2016, he compiled 11 sacks. In 2017, he had a league-high 17 and was named All-Pro for the first time in his six years.

The New York Giants, who appear likely use a 3-4 alignment the majority of the time in 2018, hope Olivier Vernon can make a similar transition. Entering his seventh season, the 6-foot-2, 261-pound Vernon has played the traditional 4-3 defensive role with both the Giants and the Miami Dolphins.

“OV is going to be a guy -- I’ve had Chandler Jones, Markus Golden, shoot even when you talk about older players, a John Abraham, a Dwight Freeney that’s played in this system who have been 4-3 if you want to classify them as 4-3 defensive ends playing in this same system,” Bettcher said on Wednesday. “Guys that have had a ton of success, guys that have been double-digit sack guys in this system. His versatility, his ability to rush from different angles. We’ve all seen him drop in space and flip his hips and do some of those things.”

Bettcher also added that Vernon won’t be expected to spend a lot of time in pass coverage.

“If you went and looked at our tape in Arizona and you saw Chandler Jones, we didn’t make our money in Arizona on defense with Chandler Jones dropping and playing in space a bunch,” he said. “It’s things that you do as great changeups, things that you do to allow you to attack offenses in different ways, and I think that’s how he’ll fit in.”

Linebackers coach Bill McGovern, a holdover from Ben McAdoo’s staff, has not worked directly with Vernon in the past. He will now.

“OV is not only is a real professional, he’s a guy that’s obviously got a great deal of talent that we’re looking to kind of get him on the field and kind of let his talents kind of take over,” McGovern said.

“He’s had some work at it in the past in Miami a little bit way back when. But, it’s going to be one of those things; initially it’s always a little bit different if you get your hand down, when you’re standing up. Or your eye level, your eyes, it’s different right from that point. But it won’t be a long adjustment. That’s what the offseason program is hopefully for and preseason camp, give the guys enough chances to get familiar with it.”

Vernon has had only one double-digit sack season in career, registering 11.5 with the Dolphins in 2013. He has had 8.5 and 6.5 sacks in his two seasons with the Giants.