With Carter, Ximines out, Golden will have bigger role for New York

Six years in the NFL has taught Markus Golden that what happens in one game has no bearing on what might occur the next time a team takes the field.

In the first quarter of this season, Golden became a part-time player. He was on the field for just seven defensive snaps in the Giants’ loss to the Rams in Los Angeles on Oct. 4 and 67 in the first four games. In 2019, he led the Giants with 10.0 sacks and was third with 917 defensive snaps.

But instead of pouting, complaining or revealing even a hint of anger, Golden simply went about his business.

“Not frustrated at all,” Golden said today of his early season workload. “I’ve been in the league for a while, so I know some weeks you can get a lot of plays, other weeks you can’t get lot of plays. My focus every week is the same no matter what. Whether I’m starting, whether I’m backing up, it’s go hard in practice, learn the game plan and prepare like I’m starting. I don’t allow that stuff to get me frustrated. I just try to focus and take it one day at a time and be ready when my name is called.”

It’s been called. Last week in Dallas, Golden played 57 snaps when Lorenzo Carter left the game after just 10 plays because of a torn Achilles tendon. Carter joined fellow starter Oshane Ximines, who is on injured reserve with a shoulder injury (and will be eligible to return in two weeks).

The absence of Carter and Ximines, who are in their third and second seasons, respectively, has created opportunities for the more seasoned duo of Kyler Fackrell, a five-year pro, and Golden. The two veterans are expected to get the majority of playing time when the Giants host the Washington Football Team Sunday in MetLife Stadium.

Each made contributions against the Cowboys. Fackrell earned his first career interception and touchdown when he picked off a Dak Prescott pass and returned it 46 yards for the Giants’ first defensive score of the season. Golden had three tackles, including a sack he shared with rookie Darnay Holmes.

Since Golden re-signed with the Giants on Aug. 4, he and Fackrell, who joined the team in March, have become close.

“(They) sit by each other in their remote learning centers in our meeting rooms the way we’re set up,” said outside linebackers coach/senior advisor Bret Bielema. “Those two are kind of over there together. They have a rapport on the field. As veterans who were new to this scheme that was a little bit different, they both talked through that and worked through it. I think it’s been a nice balancing act between those two and I think to find them out on the field for 50-plus plays together, which has really happened for nobody this far into the season, we really hadn’t had two guys playing together for the majority of the game in any of our games to this point. They survived and advanced. Did enough things to make us competitive, but we didn’t get a W and weren’t able to close that thing out. Those two working with whoever else is in the lineup on Sunday will be a big part of our success moving forward.”

Fackrell had 10.5 sacks for the Green Bay Packers two years ago, but just 1.0 in 2019, when he played about 200 fewer snaps. This year, he is the only Giants player with both a sack and an interception.

“He has pass rush value as well as pass drop skillset,” Bielema said. “I think the part that’s fun to work with him is he’s really an analyzer – he really takes deep thought into what he’s saying, what he’s doing.”

Not many coaches refer to a player as an “analyzer.” What does that mean to Fackrell?

“I like to have a clear picture of what I need to do within the defense,” Fackrell said. “I feel like that is what allows me to feel confident and to feel free. Once I know what I need to do or what my responsibility is, then there are different ways that I can fulfill that responsibility. Definitely, I would agree a lot to where I want to know and need to know the details and the reasons for how the defense is supposed to be played to be able to feel confident and kind of step out when I need to and still be able to do my responsibility.”

Golden also spends long hours studying the upcoming opponent.

“Nobody is more focused, he does a lot of note-taking, he has a lot of great individual questions for me,” Bielema said.

But early in the season, Golden was limited to sporadic appearances on the field despite his work in the classroom.

“We’re very clear explaining to our players really on a weekly basis what their role in the game is, what the game plan may call for and what they have to be ready for,” Judge said. “There hasn’t been much talking necessary to get Markus going. He works hard every day. This guy is a tremendous team guy. He’s come in with a positive attitude on a daily basis. He does whatever we ask him to.”

Last year, Golden was the first Giants linebacker with double-digit sacks since Hall of Famer Lawrence Taylor in 1990.

“I try not to take stuff personally,” Golden said. “I’ve been like that for a long time. Don’t take it personally. Come in, work hard every day, no matter what. Make sure that I’m being the same person no matter what, and that’s what I focus on the most. Make sure I’m being myself. If I’m worried about other stuff and not working as hard as I can because of other stuff that’s going on, then I’m not being myself. At the end of the day, I want to be able to come here and be as best of a teammate as I can be for my teammates and do whatever I can do to help this team win. That’s just how I am and that’s just how I’ll always be.”

With Golden taking on a larger role, the Giants appreciate that now more than ever.

*With Fackrell and Golden seeing more time and the absence of Carter and Ximines, rookies Cam Brown and Carter Coughlin are the backups at outside linebacker. Neither has taken a defensive snap this season.

“With rookies and the whole process of how these guys mature, the first step you really see is when they start their study habits and you can see that,” Graham said. “They’re asking different questions, most of their contribution is on special teams. You can see the transition there. I think part of it is they learn from some of the veterans, which is a good thing. We have a good group of veterans here that help those guys out. The second part of it that’s a little subtle, but you can see it when they start taking care of their bodies. They understand the importance of the commodity of their body, that’s how they make their money. It takes a while for those rookies to understand because they were better than (everyone) the whole time. In high school, they were better than (everyone). In college, they were better than (everyone). Now it’s like, ‘oh no, this guy is just as good as me or more talented. How can I make sure my body is performing at its peak performance on Sunday? How do I get my body right?’ Whether it’s the nutrition, whether it’s the extra stuff in the weight room, whether it’s the extra conditioning out there.

“In terms of the football part of it, the thing that stands out for me is … the aggressiveness on special teams. Cam stands out to me in terms of kickoff. We talk about it all the time, kickoff, punt coverage, that’s really the first play of a defensive possession. The contribution there, I’ve seen him split double teams making a tackle. You know that tackle counts for defense, alright thanks, you just saved us a first down. That’s a big part of it, so I’m happy with those guys and how they are out there competing.”

Via: giants.com


Lorenzo Carter, Giants’ defense want to be better against Buffalo

Lorenzo Carter this week wishes he had a professional basketball player’s opportunity for rapid redemption.

The second-year linebacker and the rest of his defensive teammates on the Giants were dissatisfied with their performance in the season-opening loss in Dallas last week. They are eager to show they are capable of much better when the team plays its home opener tomorrow against the Buffalo Bills, whose quarterback is the mobile Josh Allen. But the seven days between games seem like an eternity.

“A lot of guys, we talk,” Carter said. “In the NBA, if they have a bad game, the next day they can go out there and play again. For us, we have a whole week to sit, let it marinate, watch film and soul search. I think that’s what we’ve been doing this week. We came out and worked hard this week in practice. Now we’re just getting ready to come out and get that taste out of our mouths. Everybody is ready to get that taste out of their mouths.”

Their performance will determine if they’re successful. While the run defense was strong against the Cowboys (who averaged just 3.0 yards a carry and did not have a run longer than 10 yards in 30 attempts), both the front and back ends of the pass defense were lacking. The D never did sack quarterback Dak Prescott and rarely pressured him, getting credited for just two hits. And the secondary had too many coverage breakdowns, resulting in seven completions for more than 20 yards, including gains of 62, 45 and 36 yards that weren’t touchdowns.

“We did not play, number one, as well as we expected to play and, number two, as well as we are capable of playing,” defensive coordinator James Bettcher said.

“I think everybody is looking for the same answer, how are we going to get more pressure on the quarterback?’ outside linebackers coach Mike Dawson said. “Obviously, have to make him uncomfortable, we have to get the ball coming out faster, and we have to make him throw it under duress when he is going to throw it. Ultimately, we need to sack the quarterback when we get there. Something I think all the guys are hungry to get fixed, hungry to get answered, they came out and trained hard this week. We have to do a great job. Guys that can move, you have to have a good aiming point and good plan on those guys to be able to get to them.”

Perhaps the most critical question facing the defense entering the season was where the pass rush would come from. The players most often mentioned as potential suppliers of that valuable commodity were veteran linebacker Markus Golden, rookies Oshane Ximines and Dexter Lawrence and Carter. The quartet combined for five tackles (two solo) and one hit on Prescott (by Carter).

“We were disappointed, of course,” Carter said. “But it’s just on to the next week. There’s nothing you can really do about last week but watch the film, evaluate it and then just get ready for this week. We’re going to keep going.”

“When it comes down to whether you pressure (with extra players) or you four-man rush, it comes down to winning one-on-ones,” Bettcher said. “We have to do a better job of winning one-on-ones. I think coming out of Week 1 in terms of that specifically, you don’t sit back and say, ‘I’m surprised, I can’t believe this, I can’t believe that.’ I don’t live in that world. I look at it as here’s something we have to get better at, let’s go work to get better at it. We’re running to things, we aren’t running from them. We need to attack what the problem was and go work to correct the problem. Not just say we need to rush the quarterback better? The truth is how do you rush the passer better. What fundamentals and techniques do we need to improve with specifically with what guys and players.”

The same question could be asked about the secondary. Dallas’ strategy was to have Prescott throw the ball away from the Giants’ top cornerback, Janoris Jenkins, and toward the young corners on the opposite side, Antonio Hamilton (who started and played 36 snaps) and first-round draft choice DeAndre Baker (31 snaps). Prescott completed 25 of 33 passes for 405 yards and four touchdowns for a perfect 158.3 passer rating and was named NFC Offensive Player of the Week.

“It didn’t shake us,” said free safety Antoine Bethea. “It wasn’t the outing we wanted. We have to put the work in this week (to correct it).”

“It’s an opportunity for me to bounce back and show what I can do,” Baker said. “Show that I can fight through adversity. It’s not the best game that I wanted to have, but I can now bounce back and show what I can do.”

Coach Pat Shurmur and Bettcher all but announced changes are coming there for the Bills game.

“You can expect the young guys to play, just like they did the other night,” Shurmur said. “We’ll see how much. The rotation on that player (Hamilton) and maybe a couple others may change on defense.”

“We have to play better at that spot, we have to tackle better at that spot,” Bettcher said. “I think that’s what it came down to, some missed tackles at that position. Bake’s going to get a chance to play there and you’ll see Ham in situations and we will go from there. I think the plan will reveal itself like it did last week on Sunday. We just have to play better at the spot, just with the little things, it’s not about ability, it’s not what the guys are capable of doing, they just need to execute things that they know.”

The Giants’ secondary is an interesting blend of young players like Baker, Hamilton, Grant Haley and third-year strong safety starter Jabrill Peppers, and veterans Bethea (a 14-year pro), Jenkins (eighth season) and Michael Thomas (sixth). Every defensive back gives up big plays at some point. After a rough opening week, the more experienced players are schooling the youngster in letting those plays go and moving on.

“Just understand that this is the NFL,” Thomas said. “You have to continue to put in the work. The good thing about it for them is not just individuals, but teams make the biggest improvement from Week 1 to Week 2. Now you see it’s not like the preseason. You can have a great week of practice, but the results might not always be there. Come in, communicate way better than you did last week, run to the ball way better than you did last week, better than you’ve ever done before, and execute way better than you did last week. That’s going to give you a chance to have success.”

“You have to have a short-term memory when you’re playing cornerback,” Jenkins said. “You have to understand that you’re going to make plays, and you’re going to have plays made on you, because I get paid just as well as they get paid. You can’t go out there thinking, ‘Oh I’m going to knock every ball down, I’m going to stop every completion.’ Just go out there and play football. Understand that whatever happens between the snap, it happened. After the snap, (move on to the) next play. That’s all that matters.

“I’m going to tell them (Baker and Hamilton) that every day. Every day until they understand. Until they learn that it’s next play because they have to understand, like I said, they get paid just as well as we get paid. Everybody in the NFL is the best at what they do. You can’t go out there thinking this and thinking that. If you get beat, you line up on the next play and win the next matchup.”

The Giants’ defensive backs intend to do that tomorrow. It’s just too bad they have to wait a week for redemption.

Courtesy: Michael Eisen