Carter Coughlin has spent his first three seasons on the fringes of the New York Giants’ defense: always promising enough to earn a roster spot, but rarely good enough to see meaningful playing time.
After the disaster that was the Giants’ linebacker group last year, will Coughlin get the chance to stick around? Or will he be a casualty of an overhaul to the position group?
By the numbers
Experience: Four years
Contract: Year 4 of four-year, $3.405 million rookie deal | 2023 cap hit: $1.037 million
Career to date
An edge defender at Minnesota, Coughlin was quickly converted to inside linebacker after the Giants took him in the seventh round of the 2020 draft. But injuries meant the Giants were forced to use him as a pass rusher, and he spent his rookie season swapping between the two positions.
Coughlin’s playing time decreased in 2021, and he was mostly relegated to special teams.
But, in perhaps the best indication of how the Giants’ coaching staff views him, Coughlin played just six snaps on defense last year — even with the team churning through linebackers at an alarming rate. He instead spent the year as a special teams player, appearing in every game. He logged nine tackles and forced a pivotal fumble in a Week 2 win over the Carolina Panthers.
If Coughlin was ever going to carve out a role on defense, it likely would have been last year. The Giants were signing linebackers off other team’s practice squads and starting guys like Jarrad Davis, but Coughlin continued to play only special teams.
Free agent signee Bobby Okereke gives the Giants a legitimate No. 1 linebacker, meaning the team won’t have to rely on as many backups like last year. That’s not good for Coughlin, who didn’t see the field even with little competition for playing time.
If Coughlin sticks around, it will likely be only as a special teams player. But he’s now entering his second year with a staff that did not draft him. He’ll have to compete with Cam Brown — another linebacker turned special teamer — or even undrafted free agents Dyontae Johnson and Troy Brown.