EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – The Giants were so enamored with outside linebacker Lorenzo Carter in the 2018 NFL Draft, they tried to trade up to get him. They were thwarted in their attempt to make a deal, but still got their man.
Three months later, they are thrilled how it all worked out.
Carter impressed the coaches in the team's first full-pads training camp practice yesterday, just as he had in the spring workouts and minicamps, and before that with his work at the University of Georgia. Although it is still far too early to make definitive judgments, Carter appears capable of being a persistent pass rush presence both from the edge and up the middle. If he is, the Giants could very well get significant contributions from each of their first three draft choices: Carter, running back Saquon Barkley and guard Will Hernandez.
"One of his redeeming qualities is he's an excellent edge player," coach Pat Shurmur said today. "But you also have to be able to work in conjunction with line stunts. Those are things we're trying to get out of him. He's a big athlete that's very long. He's just working through it."
One of the Giants' questions entering camp was where they would get a pass rush from. Jason Pierre-Paul, who led the team last year with 8.5 sacks, is no longer with the team. The Giants still have Olivier Vernon, who had 6.5 sacks despite missing four games with an ankle injury and has moved from defensive end to linebacker in James Bettcher's 3-4 defense. They added Carter in the draft and earlier this week signed veteran Connor Barwin, who has 55.5 career sacks.
"I love Connor," Carter said. "Once he got in here I just saw… He's a tenured vet. I've learned as much as I can from him. He knows the recipe, he has the formula, so it would be ignorant of me not to follow him and do everything he does."
Barwin is entering his 10th season and knows all the tricks to producing in the NFL trenches. He will be one of many players and coaches who will pass their knowledge on to Carter.
"He really needs to develop his whole game," linebackers coach Bill McGovern said of his young protégé. "Being a young guy out there and it's the first day in pads against the guys, he's going to go against obviously better players than he's seen. But he's got to develop everything. He's got to develop the way he's playing against the run, the way he's going to do the pass rush, and you need just a couple of moves as you get going, but he's going to have to fine tune, he's got to work his steps, his eyes, all of it. It's just the overall game right now."
Carter did not put up huge numbers at Georgia. He had 14.0 sacks in 54 games, including in his final two seasons. But at 6-5 and 246 pounds, he has the size, plus the speed and desire, to be a top-flight pass rusher.
The Giants are hoping to accelerate his development by limiting his responsibilities early.
"Here, I'm playing straight outside linebacker, strong side," he said. "My job is simple: set the edge, affect the passer and lastly I have to drop (into pass coverage), but dropping is next. That's an afterthought. In the front of my head is pass rushing and being aggressive going forward. I love it."
He turned it up when the pads came on yesterday, attacking the Giants' offensive tackles in practice and putting pressure on the quarterbacks.
"You definitely can tell when you're doing it right just the way things happen," Carter said. "You can tell when your eyes are in the right place and your movements are doing the right things. I just try to keep doing what I'm doing. Try to keep getting that feeling because that's the thing you just want to let the coaches know that you can continuously do it."
On the other hand…"You definitely know when it's going wrong, that's when you just turn around and put the jets on, try to keep running. Everybody's going to make mistakes, especially as a rookie, but you just have to make mistakes and you don't lose, you just learn lessons."
While most young players in his position would prefer to cut loose and focus only on the quarterback, Carter also must be a presence in run game. If a running back scampers around his side, chances are he'll be standing on the sideline next to McGovern.
But Carter is not anticipating that becoming an issue.
"Protecting that edge, it just comes, I say, kind of natural," he said. "You just have to get off the ball and just try to get some knockback. That's the thing coach is telling us, we don't have to really – you can set the edge by knocking somebody back and forcing them to get in the hole. Just playing physical, playing very disruptive."
That's exactly what the Giants wants to get from their precocious third-round draft choice.