The New York Giants’ pass rush improved marginally from 2018 to 2019 — up from 30 sacks to 36 and from a sack percentage of 5.08 to 6.08 — but was still bottom third in the league. The Giants still need more impact defensive players, with no need really bigger than a dominant edge rusher who demands a double team.
Let’s look at the EDGE players the Giants used in 2019 and how the position could change in 2020.
Starters: Markus Golden, Lorenzo Carter
Reserves: Oshane Ximines, Kareem Martin, Chris Peace (IR)
Markus Golden — Undeniably the Giants’ best pass rusher, Golden put together a comeback season that saw him reach 10 sacks, his first double-digit season since he had 12.5 for the Arizona Cardinals in 2016 before wrecking his knee.
Still, the chart below shows that Golden — even with the double-digit sack numbers — is not one of the game’s highly-respected, dominant pass rushers. He’s not a No. 1. The chart shows that few edge rushers were double teamed less, and that his pass rush win rate is only average.
Double team rate as an edge (x) by pass rush win rate as an edge (y) for the 2019 regular season.— Seth Walder (@SethWalder) December 30, 2019
PRWR = rate pass rusher beats blocker in 2.5 seconds.
ESPN metrics, NFL Next Gen Stats data. pic.twitter.com/zJagMBty3Y
Per Pro Football Focus, Golden’s pass rush productivity mark of 8.0 percent was 21st among 61 qualifying EDGE defenders. That was equal to Calais Campbell, Arik Armstead and Khalil Mack.
With all of that in mind, how much will the 28-year-old Golden be worth to the Giants — or any of the league’s other pass-rush needy teams — as he hits free agency?
Spotrac’s Market Value Calculator estimates Golden to be worth four years and nearly $54.2 million, or roughly $13.5 million annually. That would put him, by Spotrac’s calculations, sixth among outside linebackers. Is Golden really worth that kind of money?
Lorenzo Carter — The Giants hoped that in his second season Carter would take advantage of his physical gifts and make the jump to becoming an elite pass rusher. It didn’t happen. Carter played nearly 300 more snaps in 2019 than he had as a rookie, yet his sack numbers went from only 4.0 to 4.5, his pressures from 19 to 23 and his tackles from 43 to 45. In other words, on a play-to-play basis Carter was less productive in his second season than he had been as a rookie.
Oshane Ximines — The Giants never really figured X-Man would be a dominant force in 2019 as he adjusted from small-school Old Dominion to facing NFL competition. They hoped he would flash pass-rushing potential and show the ability to become a bigger contributor down the road, and he did those things. Ximines finished with 4.5 sacks, tied with Carter for second on the team. Ximines’ pass rush productivity score of 6.2 was better than Carter (5.3), Leonard Williams (5.8) and Dexter Lawrence (4.3). Whatever defense Patrick Graham runs in 2020, Ximines should be a bigger part of it than he was as a rookie.
Others — Kareem Martin, Chris Peace and early in the year Tuzar Skipper were all bit players. Skipper was signed off the practice squsd by Pittsburgh, and neither Martin nor Peace figure to have a place going forward.
Is this a need in 2020?
Yes! Yes! A thousand times, yes! All I’m going to say is that whether or not he re-signs with the Giants, and I hope he returns, Golden cannot be the team’s No. 1 pass rusher. That’s just not good enough.