The New York Giants were among the league’s worst teams at getting after the quarterback last season and lost their top pass rusher to free agency.
The Giants attempted to shore up the position by taking a pair of defensive linemen in the 2018 NFL Draft, but the biggest hope for boosting the sack total will come from within.
Defensive end Olivier Vernon, signed to a huge free-agent contract two years ago, will be shifted to outside linebacker in the team’s 3-4 scheme to maximize his pass-rushing skills.
“We know he is a dynamic guy,” Bettcher told NJ Advance Media earlier this offseason. “He’s a guy that can rush from different angles, a guy that you can move around and put in different matchups, and he’s embraced everything that we’ve done to this point.
“I’ve loved working with him, and I think he’s making some great progress, not just in this scheme, but I think as I’ve looked at him as a player, he’s sharpening his tools right now.”
New York will need an impactful season from Vernon, particularly after Jason Pierre-Paul signed with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the offseason. Pierre-Paul had a team-high 8.5 sacks in 2017.
Despite missing four games with an ankle injury, Vernon collected 6.5 sacks last season. He started all 16 games and registered 8.5 sacks in 2016 after signing a five-year, $85 million contract that included $52.5 million in guaranteed money.
A third-round pick of Miami in the 2012 draft, Vernon notched 29 sacks in four seasons with the Dolphins, including a career-high 11.5 in 2013.
Giants safety Andrew Adams told NJ Advance Media that Vernon’s ability to pressure the quarterback can have a ripple effect on the rest of the team’s defnse.
“That’s huge, to have a pass-rusher like him coming off the edge,” said Adams. “He gets from the line of scrimmage to the quarterback so quick that it helps us as safeties to be able to just read the quarterback. When a quarterback has pressure in his face like that, he can’t just sit back there and look guys off, or look safeties off. He has to kind of narrow down to his target. That helps the safety to be able to get an early break on the ball.
“I think Olivier is definitely loving the new defense. He’s an athletic guy. He’s versatile, and he can do whatever the scheme requires him to do.”