EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – Lorenzo Carter enjoyed much team and individual success at the University of Georgia, but he is not interested in recreating his collegiate career in the NFL, especially when it entails defending the Arizona Cardinals’ atypical offense.
Carter and his defensive teammates on the Giants will shoulder that task tomorrow, when the teams meet in MetLife Stadium. The 2-4 Giants have lost two consecutive games, while the 2-3-1 Cardinals won their last two.
First-year coach Kliff Kingsbury joined Arizona from Texas Tech, where in each of his six seasons the Red Raiders were ranked among the top 10 in the country in passing yards and in the top 20 in total yards. Kingsbury has brought his fast-paced, no huddle, wideout-heavy attack to the NFL and he even has last year’s Heisman Trophy winner, Kyler Murray, to run it.
Opposing defenders face a significant challenge trying to stop it.
Carter was asked if it’s “nice to get back to college.”
“No, it’s not,” he said. “Definitely would prefer a pro-style offense with a little less RPOs (run/pass options) and reads. But it is what it is. It’s nothing new. I played it in college. It’s just going to revert back to those rules, making sure we play sound defense and just follow your rules.”
“It’s kind of more of a college feel to it where guys are on the ball and they’ve got the spread on,” linebacker Alec Ogletree said. “They make you defend the whole field - screen to the right, then come back, screen to the left, screen to the middle - all kinds of stuff that they do. So, it takes a lot of eye discipline and making sure guys are in the right positions.”
That will be particularly true when monitoring Murray, the first overall selection in this year’s NFL Draft. (The Giants’ Daniel Jones was No. 6, and this will be the first showdown this season of rookie quarterbacks.)
Murray is the first player in NFL history with at least 20 completions in each of his first six games. He has thrown for more than 300 yards in half of those games. Murray has also run for 238 yards and a 6.1-yard average and is responsible for nine touchdowns (seven throwing, two running).
“I think our guys are excited about this challenge, a quarterback that’s really dynamic,” defensive coordinator James Bettcher said. “I have spent 10 games playing against Russell Wilson in Seattle (during five seasons on Arizona’s staff), so I have seen some guys like this that can buy time with their feet who are accurate and can deliver the ball on time and on schedule, then create some off-schedule plays. They’ve created a good amount of explosives in the pass game off of that. Also, the read option, there’s designed quarterback runs where he is running it and there’s other plays where he is reading the scheme of the defense, tucking the ball and carrying it or giving it. It’s going to be a great challenge for our guys.”
Linebacker Markus Golden, who leads the Giants with 5.0 sacks, is another former Cardinal who has experience trying to stop the versatile and prolific Wilson.
“(Murray) reminds me a little bit of Russell Wilson, but he’s probably a little quicker,” Golden said. “He’s pretty quick. He’s like a running back back there playing quarterback, so you’re going to have to keep an eye on him and you’re going to have to have a game plan to be able to get after him. Everybody is going to have to work together because he’s a solid player.”
Golden relishes the opportunity to chase one of the NFL’s newest stars.
“I’m looking forward to that,” he said. “On film, he looks really good. He looks like he’s hard to sack out there. When you get a guy like that, you’ve got to get excited to get out there and run and run them down and get after him. I’m excited. Everybody else is excited, too.”
Murray is hardly the only Cardinal the Giants defense must keep grounded. David Johnson is a talented and experienced multipurpose back who leads the team with 298 rushing yards and is second with 41 catches. His backup, Chase Edmonds, is averaging 6.7 yards a carry. Wide receivers Christian Kirk and Damiere Byrd have combined for 57 catches, despite Kirk being inactive the last two weeks with an ankle injury.
And then there’s the great Larry Fitzgerald, a 16-year veteran who is second in NFL history with 1,338 receptions – including a team-high 35 this year.
“There is a receiver that is going to wear a gold (Hall of Fame) jacket some day in Larry,” Bettcher said. “I have a ton of respect for him.”
“He’s still playing at a high level for them,” said safety Antoine Bethea, who played the previous two seasons for the Cardinals. “Obviously, he’s a consummate pro. Obviously, he takes care of himself. Week in and week out, he’s still getting the job done.”
Tomorrow, the Giants defense will be asked to do the same and stop Murray and Co.
“We need all 11 guys,” cornerback Janoris Jenkins said. “We know he’s very, very mobile, but he also can make a lot of throws, so we have to stay on our game and just be able to plaster when the play breaks down.
“They play tempo, up tempo. (The challenge is) being able to contain the quarterback, keep them in the pocket, cover his second option and his first option, and just play fast.”
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