DE Olivier Vernon made an athletic play on Browns TE David Njoku:
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – One of the most memorable plays from the Giants' preseason game in Cleveland Monday night was an incomplete pass. The play stood out not because of who passed the ball, or who it was thrown to, but who defended it.
On third-and-25, Giants defensive end Olivier Vernon, whose forte is sacking quarterbacks, followed Browns tight end David Njoku 30 yards downfield and batted away the pass from quarterback DeShone Kizer. Both Njoku and Kizer are rookies. Defensive linemen are seldom that far down the field, nor do they regularly display such impressive athleticism covering a speedy receiver.
"He is a very talented man," coach Ben McAdoo said. "He plays the game hard. I think it speaks more to the effort and finish in the second preseason game and the desire to compete. It was a great example for everybody on the team."
Vernon is always understated, and that is particularly true when he's asked to talk about himself, or a play that he made. He remained true to character when asked to describe his unexpected shadowing of Njoku.
"Basically, we just had to drop on the tight end and just had to stick on him until I found some help," he said. "And unfortunately, it didn't come, so I just had to stay on him."
Was Vernon auditioning to be a part-time cornerback?
"No, not at all, man," he said. "It's going to be a long game for me if I have to do that all the time, you know?"
Ironically, Njoku, like Vernon, is a former star at the University of Miami.
"I know Njoku," Vernon said. "I didn't realize it was him before the down. But, I've got something for him after the season.
"At the end of the day, it's football. So, it's about doing your job. You have to be out there doing your job and you don't want to look bad on tape. You've just got to be out there, you've got to do what you've got to do. And that's always been my mentality when I'm out there, preseason or not. You've just got to do your job and make it look good."
Although Vernon was blasé about his coverage skills, his teammates were definitely impressed.
"That was amazing," linebacker Jonathan Casillas said. "I didn't know right away, because I was trying to pressure the quarterback. And they said something about O.V. When I saw it on film, I said, 'Wow.' He did it with ease. He's a tremendous athlete. He's one of those guys that every day on film, every play, you see him and say, 'Wow.' From what he does against tight ends and tackles, his get-off, the way he uses his hands, he's definitely a tremendous player. I definitely think he's one of the most underrated players in the NFL."
"Man, that was nice," defensive back Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie said. "I was at the safety at that, I saw the quarterback scrambling a little bit, seeing the guy coming from the other side of the field, then somebody running with him and knocked it down. I definitely didn't think it was O.V. Then I see everybody slapping his hand on the sideline, I was lost. Then I looked back on film and I was like, 'That's nice.' You wouldn't expect an end to do that."
Knocking down a third-down pass was Vernon's second big play of the game. On Cleveland's first offensive possession, he tipped a Brock Osweiler pass that was intercepted by fellow end Jason Pierre-Paul. The two ends also combined for a sack of Kizer on the series on which Vernon showed his coverage skills.
"What helps us out is that we've got a lot of guys that can see," Vernon said. "When you're playing the positon we play, defensive end, when you play on the defensive line, you've just got to be aware of the space, aware of where your teammates are. It's like a chain, it helps balance everybody out. So, if we go underneath, somebody coming high, it just works. It's like some type of fluidity in that process, so it's chemistry with that one. I feel like we just build a whole lot of great chemistry going into year two – my year two – with the team. It's just got to keep building from there."