EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – The Giants today made it official: Olivier Vernon will miss their Kickoff Weekend game Sunday against the Jacksonville Jaguars because of the ankle injury he suffered in practice on Aug. 26.
Vernon's 6.5 sacks in 2017 were the highest total of any player on the current roster. Connor Barwin and Lorenzo Carter are expected to get a heavier workload in Vernon's absence.
"We'll use the whole roster to fill that void," coach Pat Shurmur said. "Typically, when you put a roster together, there are guys that will have to overlap in certain positions – your fullback overlaps at tight end, your fullback can overlap at running back. So we do the same thing with the D-line and the edge players."
"A lot of people are going to get reps, and me and (Carter) are going to play," Barwin said. "I'm excited to see what Zo does, and I'm excited to see what I can do, and we're going to help each other throughout the game."
Both Barwin and Carter are newcomers to the Giants this season, but they are at far different mileposts in their careers. The former is a 10-year veteran and 2014 Pro Bowler who has played in 133 regular-season and postseason games for three other teams, and has 55.5 career sacks. Carter was a third-round draft choice this year from Georgia who will make his NFL debut on Sunday. After playing before huge Southeastern Conference crowds in college, he is confident neither MetLife Stadium nor the moment will be too big for him.
"Football is football," Carter said. "It's the same thing whether you play in a huge stadium or a parking lot, it's going to be football. I'm excited to be here, but I'm more ready to get a win than just being excited to go on the field. I don't just want to be here, I want to contribute and win.
"I try to stay level-headed, not too excited, because that burns energy. I try to stay calm, let all the excitement stuff come out when I hit the field. It's more of refining things, getting my mind right in the right mindset, and getting the game plan locked in."
Carter had nine tackles (five solo) and 1.5 sacks in the preseason, when he had two sacks nullified by penalties. At Georgia, he had 14.0 career sacks.
"(Carter) is a guy that, the longer it goes with him, I think the thing I see the most is the faster he plays," defensive coordinator James Bettcher said. "He's starting to really understand what we're doing and what we're asking of him number one, then two, just as a rusher, he's really learning how to rush. To me, as young players in this league, that's a yearlong process that might be into year two with a lot of guys."
"He's an edge player," Shurmur said. "He was an outstanding pass rusher in college. I think he's improved in that area through the training camp, and he's going to get his opportunity Sunday."
While Carter's strength is pressuring quarterbacks, he wants to be more than a one-dimensional player.
"I don't want to just be a pass rusher," he said. "I want to be a guy that can play first and second down, stop the run."
Barwin, who spent his only season with the Los Angeles Rams in 2017, was a free agent until he signed with the Giants just as training camp was beginning on July 24. He played 12 defensive snaps in the preseason opener vs. Cleveland, then did not step on the field again in August. But he is ready to go now.
"I've played in a lot of NFL football games," Barwin said. "You can say my legs are a little fresh going into this week, because I had about a week and a half off of training camp, so it worked out. I did everything I had to do when I was down for those days. I feel prepared, I know what I'm supposed to do, and again, my legs are fresh going into Sunday."
Carter has made steady progress since first reporting to the Giants in May, and he credits Barwin for accelerating his development in the last six weeks.
"I probably can't even put it into words how much he's helped me," Carter said. "He's still helping me learning how to be a pro, learning how to watch film, learning how to just take care of your body. I watch him he does a lot; he has to take care of his body.
"Connor's a great player and I watch him, watch what he does, and try to emulate him because it works. A lot of the stuff he does works and it works often so it's just take notes."
Barwin intends to show Carter and everyone else a few new tricks on Sunday. He is healthy, confident and excited to play his first game with his new team. And he likes the venue; in seven career games in MetLife Barwin has 19 tackles (13 solo), 3.0 sacks, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery.
"I've had a lot of good games in MetLife Stadium, and I expect to keep that going," he said. "Just with the right jersey on now."