The New York Giants are putting a lot of faith in their young pass rushers.
The Giants’ EDGE unit struggled to create consistent pressure on opposing quarterbacks last year, and the team didn’t add much to the unit in the offseason. Instead the Giants are leaning on young players like Lorenzo Carter and Oshane Ximines — as well as sixth round pick Cam Brown — to take the next steps in their respective developments.
“Yeah, we have a lot of young guys on the team,” Ximines said. “I feel like we are all learning from each other. We all realize that. We’re just coming in, we’re bought into what the coaches are saying and what they are trying to bring to us. We’re just getting better every day.”
On improving in year two
Ximines wasn’t a heralded pass rusher coming out of college. There wasn’t much buzz surrounding him after playing at a smaller school like Old Dominion and he doesn’t have the extraordinary athleticism to turn heads during the draft process. However, he was regarded as an unusually polished pass rusher as a draft prospect. What Ximines lacked in elite athleticism, he made up for it with good technique and hand usage.
And after a rookie season in which he showed flashes of future promise, Ximines says he’s better prepared to get the most out of training camp. “Definitely,” he said, “after playing a full season I kind of already know what to expect when it comes to camp and different schemes on the field and things like that. It’s good going into year two, you feel a lot more comfortable.”
“Rookie year was great and I learned a lot of things. In year two I’m just looking to do whatever I have to do to help the team win. Coming in learning the playbook and doing whatever I have to do every single day. Getting better and being an asset to the team.”
Ximines acknowledged that he did some good things as a rookie, but isn’t going to sit on those laurels. Instead, he’s looking at himself to find his weaknesses and working to address them.
He said, “I did progress as the season went on. I feel like I did progress. I still have a long way to go though. When I turned off the film week 17, I wasn’t satisfied with that. I still have a long way to go and I’m trying to get better every day.”
“I always watch my film,” he added, “it’s what you put out there, that’s what other people watch, and it’s what defines you as a football player. It’s very important to always go back to the film. During the offseason I spent most of my time up here just working out. I looked at the film a lot because you have to improve, and you have to be better than what you put out last year.”
On the EDGE room
While players like Ximines, Lorenzo Carter, Markus Golden, and Kyler Fackrel are called “outside linebackers” by the Giants — and are coached by Bret Bielema as the “outside linebackers coach”, Patrick Graham hasn’t committed to running any particular defensive front. Their responsibilities might change from being traditional outside linebackers on one play to defensive ends on another to stand-up rushers on the next play.
It’s probably just easier to call them “EDGE” players than trying to fit them neatly into a traditional box. And an “edge” is an attitude with which they are actively trying to play.
It’s a mentality Ximines describes as “Going out there and making sure you are doing all your assignments and things like that. Having good edge awareness and playing with an edge. I can’t go into detail about scheme and stuff. Just going out there and making sure we are doing what we need to be doing.”
Bielema describes that as having “linebacker D.N.A.” and Ximines says the Giants’ edge players have bought in to the idea. “It’s something that we stress in our room,” he said. “It’s something that we always want to have on our mind when we are out on the field playing and when we are evaluating ourselves on film. Coach Bret came and that’s basically one of the first things he told us when he walked into the room. All the guys have bought into it and that’s something that we always carry with us when we are stepping on the field. It’s been going well and we are getting better at it.”