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Position Preview: Will the Giants be able to generate pressure off the edges?

A look at the Giants’ EDGE players

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

The New York Giants 2018 training is camp rapidly approaching, so it’s time to take a step back and take a look at the team position group by position group.

Last time I took a look at the defensive linemen — that is, the players who will likely be on the defensive line regardless of down and distance. In a nod to the multiplicity of modern NFL defenses, and James Bettcher’s in particular, I decided to take a look at the “EDGE” players separately. These are the players who are going to spend most of their time on the edges of the front 7, but might be linebackers or defensive ends depending on what package and alignment the Giants have called for that play.

[Note: As I did last time, I won’t be using the term “starter” to define the depth chart. The player that plays the first snap might not play the most snaps or be more important than a player who is a “sub-package” player.]

First team

Olivier Vernon - The Giants paid handsomely to bring Vernon from the Miami Dolphins to New York in 2016. There has been debate whether they got their money’s worth. While he hasn’t produced the sack totals that fans envisioned, he has been one of the league’s most disruptive defensive ends while playing through injury and — frankly — an obscene percentage of the defense’s snaps.

Now he’ll play the “Chandler Jones” role in the Giants’ revamped defense, moving between rush linebacker and defensive end (depending on down, distance, and sub-package). Vernon was projected as a 3-4 outside linebacker coming out of the University of Miami, and has played well there when the Giants used 3-4 fronts over the last two years.

Kareem Martin - Martin was one of the first free agents acquired by the Giants at the start of free agency. Like Josh Mauro on the defensive line, he was brought in to facilitate the change from Steve Spagnuolo’s 4-3 based scheme to James Bettcher’s 3-4 based defense. Martin moved around quite a bit for the Cardinals, playing both outside linebacker and on the defensive line —both end, and in some cases, tackle — and it’s reasonable to assume that he’ll play a similar role for the Giants.

He is a steady presence in the run game, playing with strength and discipline to set a firm edge. Martin isn’t a dynamic pass rusher, but has improved that facet of his game over his career. [90-Man Roster Profile]

Second team

Lorenzo Carter - The Giant’s first third round pick, Carter was rumored to be a favorite of Bettcher’s throughout the draft process. Carter is a versatile player, with the ability to rush the passer or drop into coverage as a linebacker, or play as a defensive end in pass rushing situations. He is a bit raw as a rookie, but when Carter steps on the field he will instantly be one of the most athletic linebackers in the NFL, having tested in the 98th percentile among NFL athletes.

The Giants will look to create opportunities to get Carter’s athleticism on the field while he polishes his game to become an every-down player. [90-Man Roster Profile]

Romeo Okwara - A 2016 undrafted free agent out of Notre Dame, Okwara made a splash when he got an opportunity to start against the Dallas Cowboys and had a fantastic game against Doug Free. Unfortunately, he has yet to replicate that performance and has proven to be more of a rotational piece than a major contributor. He has spent the spring working with the linebackers, but at 6-foot-6, 275 pounds, it wouldn’t be much of a surprise to see him primarily on the defensive line. [90-Man Roster Profile]

Question marks

Avery Moss - Moss was Jerry Reese’s last draft choice as the Giants’ GM, and for a stretch in the middle of 2017, he looked like an absolute steal. Moss flashed on nearly every play as he worked his way on to the field in the middle of the season. However, as the season wound down his snaps began to mysteriously decrease, and he has yet to take the field in OTAs or mini-camp.

Moss has clearly been dealing with an injury which he suffered at some point last season — though we don’t for sure what that injury may be. He has a good body-type and athleticism to contribute as both a defensive end and rush linebacker, and, if he can get healthy, the Giants could certainly use another pass rusher with Moss’ potential. [90-Man Roster Profile]

Jordan Williams - Right now, Williams is listed as an outside linebacker, but he drew praise last year playing in the 280’s as a defensive lineman. Jonathan Casillas, who correctly identified surprise contributors in years past, said of Williams:

“I think the way he’s playing right now he could be a Giant for sure. I would take him on my team if I could decide,” Casillas said on the “Big Blue Chat” podcast.

“The way he plays, last game, and I see him in practice the way he runs to the ball, his skill. He has a great motor. I hope we can keep him.”

Signed as an undrafted free agent out of Tennessee, Williams was initially cast as a linebacker in the NFL, but has since shown more as a defensive lineman. The Giants’ defensive line rotation is crowded, but Williams might have a better chance making the roster as a 3 and 5-technique than an outside linebacker.