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Giants’ 90-man roster: Can Markus Golden return to 2016 form?

Team, player are both betting that he can

NFL: Arizona Cardinals at Los Angeles Rams
Markus Golden celebrates a 2016 sack.
Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

Markus Golden signed a one-year “prove it” deal to re-unite with James Bettcher, the defensive coordinator under whom he had a breakout 12.5-sack 2016 season. Both Golden and a New York Giants team desperate for pass rush are hoping for a big payoff.

Is that realistic? Let’s talk about Golden as we cotinue profiling the 90 players the Giants will bring to training camp this summer.

The basics

Height: 6-foot-3
Weight: 260
Age: 28
Position: Edge
Experience: 4

How he got here

Golden’s first two seasons followed a path similar to the one the Giants hope Lorenzo Carter’s will take. A four-sack rookie season after being a second-round pick by the Arizona Cardinals out of Missouri in 2015, followed by a 12.5-sack breakout 2016 season.

Four games into the 2017 season. Golden suffered a torn ACL. He missed the rest of the 2017 season, then returned in Week 3 of the 2018 season. He wasn’t the same player, though, tallying oly 2.5 sacks. His pass rush productivity scores, though, indicated he did create some pressure. Golden had a 7.8 pass rush productivity score in 2016, and was at 7.0 last year. He created 26 pressures in 219 pass rush snaps. That would have been good enough for fourth on the Giants behind Olivier Vernon (46 pressures, 414 snaps), Carter (29/287) and B.J. Hill (27/356).

2019 outlook

When he signed with the Giants in March, Golden told media via conference call that he has “been feeling 100 percent and feel like I’m ready to get back to where I was.”

Golden knows he wasn’t the player last season that he believes he can be.

“I’m not a guy to make excuses at all, but I got injured. Last year I was kind of playing and trying to get back caught up and getting my legs under me. That’s what happened, but at the end of the day, I’m still believing in myself,” he said. “I know the work that I put in and I know that I’m not going to stop working hard. That’s all I’m going to do -- keep grinding, keep working hard, and I feel like God is going to bless me and good things are going to happen.”

With no other truly proven pass rusher on the roster the Giants will need good things from Golden.

“Don’t ever forget that before that he was one of the best pass rushers in this league. People had to plan for him,” defensive coordinator James Bettcher said recently. “I know that because I was one of the guys calling the plays for him on defense. I saw what he was able to do when he was healthy and running around.

“I love how he is moving right now and I love his work. He is a guy that is going to play exceptionally hard.”

Outside linebackers coach Mike Dawson belies Golden can be “a double-digit sack guy.”

“Once you guys watch him train and watch the way that he plays, and you go back and watch his pre-injury film, just the way he’s all over the field in the run game and the pass game,” Dawson said. “When the ball is down the field, he’s backside chasing that thing like a mad man. That intensity and that level of effort he plays with is going to lead to production with him.

“He and I have used the term, coming off of one of those injuries, and he was able to get out there and get on the field last year, but there’s always that kind of in the back of your mind, am I ready to go, is this going to happen again -- things like that. To be able to put that behind him, get a full year under his belt, both in the weight room and the training room -- being able to do those things and then get out on the field and being able to put all that stuff behind him and just go and do his thing that’s has made such a good player -- which is go and attack the ball and be able to get after the quarterback, I think is going to be a lot of fun to watch.”

There are two central questions with Golden.

One, is he all the way back physically? Two, can he produce without proven players next to him like Chandler Jones (11 sacks in 2016) and Calais Campbell (8 sacks in 2016)?

The Giants are hoping the answers to both questions is “yes.”