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

 

Giants re-sign Markus Golden

Outside linebacker Markus Golden – whose 10.0 sacks in 2019 were more than twice the total of any other Giants defender – today re-signed with the team. Golden, who is entering his sixth NFL season, rejoins a group of outside backers that includes three-year veteran Lorenzo Carter and second-year pro Oshane Ximines – who tied for second on the team with 4.5 sacks last season – free agent acquisition Kyler Fackrell, who had 10.5 sacks for Green Bay in 2018, and 2020 draft choices Cam Brown and Carter Coughlin. Golden has 29.0 career sacks. Carter, Ximines and Fackrell have a combined 29.5 sacks.

According to the NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport, it’s a one-year deal worth around $5.1 million.

Golden, 29, had been an unrestricted free agent. Soon after the NFL Draft in late April, the Giants placed a seldom-used unrestricted free agent tender on Golden. When he did not sign with another team by the first day of training camp, the Giants regained exclusive rights to his services for the 2020 season.

In his first season with the Giants in 2019, Golden was one of six players – including four on defense – to start all 16 games. He was one of 18 NFL players with at least 10.0 sacks. Golden was the first Giants player with a double-digit sack total since Jason Pierre-Paul had 12.5 in 2014 and the first Giants linebacker to accomplish the feat since Lawrence Taylor had 10.5 in 1990. Golden finished fifth with 72 tackles (37 solo). He had a season-high eight tackles (five solo) vs. Green Bay on Dec. 1.

Golden joined the Giants as a free agent on March 15, 2019, after four seasons with the Arizona Cardinals.

*The Giants removed one player but added another to the reserve/COVID-19 list. Wide receiver David Sills, who was added to the list a week ago today, returned to the team. Second-year linebacker Josiah Tauaefa was placed on the list.

As a rookie in 2019, Tauaefa played 12 games as a reserve linebacker and on special teams. He totaled three solo tackles, including two for a loss, all in his NFL debut vs. Minnesota on Oct. 6. Tauaefa added three tackles and one forced fumble on special teams.

Giants’ Golden: ‘I’m in a good groove’

Linebacker Markus Golden this year joined the Giants after four seasons with the Arizona Cardinals and on Sunday in MetLife Stadium, he will face his former team for the first time.

“It makes me excited,” Golden said. “I’m excited just to be able to go out there and compete against some of my old teammates.”

They should have no trouble recognizing him, because Golden is doing a terrific impersonation of when he was at his best with the Cardinals. He leads the Giants with 5.0 sacks and has registered at least a half-sack in each of the last five games. That matches the career-long streak he had in the first five games of the 2016 season when he tied for third in the NFL and led the Cardinals with a career-high 12.5 sacks (and 19 tackles for loss) His defensive coordinator then was James Bettcher, who is now in his second season in the same position with the Giants.

The following year, Golden started the first four games but did not record a sack before suffering a season-ending torn ACL in overtime of a victory against San Francisco. He returned in 2018 to play in a new system and had 2.5 sacks while starting all 11 games in which he played.

The Cardinals brought in a new coaching staff and declined to re-sign Golden, whom they selected in the second round (No. 58 overall) of the 2015 NFL Draft. When Golden re-joined Bettcher and signed with the Giants on March 15, he said, “I’m more motivated now to get out there and prove to everyone in New York I can still ball.”

So far, so good. Golden also leads the team with 11 quarterback hits (five more than runner-up Lorenzo Carter) and is tied for the lead with three tackles for loss. Last week, he scored his first career touchdown on a 42-yard fumble return vs. the Patriots. He has also impressed everyone with his upbeat attitude, relentless play and friendly demeanor off the field.

“He’s one of my favorite guys in a lot of ways because he’s so into it, he plays hard,” coach Pat Shurmur said. “I think he’s very disruptive. We are starting to see, well we sort of saw it, but I think people who don’t know Markus are starting to see what he did a couple years ago when he had a lot of impact sacking the quarterback. He’s doing a good job, he’s playing hard, and he’s a really valuable member of our team.”

Golden is asked often if he is again the dominant player he was in 2016. He’s not yet ready to go there.

“What I say is, I see myself working every day to get better,” he said. “Back then, that was the player I was. Before I got hurt, I could seriously say I worked every day to get better. Last year, I was kind of nervous about my leg, wearing a big brace every day, every game. It’s you getting better, but not as better as you can. I wasn’t able to zone in and really focus like I am now and focus on football and the game because I don’t have to worry about my knee.”

This year, he has shed the brace and become one of the Giants’ most important defenders.

“Anytime you’re on the field and you have a big brace on your leg, and then you get out there and you have nothing on there, you feel clear,” he said. “I feel good.”

Bettcher also said the 2019 Golden is not identical to the 2016 model, but…

“I think he is really close to being that same guy,” Bettcher said. “He is out here working to try and get better and he’s felt better and better with his health. I think that was obviously the first thing. Markus and I talked at the beginning of the year and the goal wasn’t to get back to that guy, it was to be better than that guy. I think if you have gotten to know Markus, you’ve gotten to see how he works, how he plays the game. I think if there is anybody that’s going to come off of an injury like he had and be able to become a better player, it’s this guy. He loves the game, he works tirelessly. A lot of the plays that he makes are just second-effort plays, are just beyond skills, talent. It’s just mindset and purpose. That’s one of the reasons I have always loved him.

“I remember his first game as a rookie, we are playing the Saints at our place. They are on the 15-yard line and he’s aligned to the field, they run a screen into the back in the boundary, he’s to the field and … he makes a tackle at the seven. I see that play and you see him work in practice and that’s just his identity, that’s who he is.”

Bettcher’s presence was a major factor in Golden choosing to relocate to New Jersey. Golden is also playing with three former Cardinals teammates. Linebacker Kareem Martin, currently on injured reserve, joined the Giants last year and safety Antoine Bethea and defensive tackle Olsen Pierre signed the same week this offseason that Golden did.

“Bettch was a big part of it,” Golden said of his move east. “Just knowing Bettch, talking with Kareem a lot, and him telling me there was great people up here and everything. So, that played a big part of it. Then, I know the defense and knew the defense a lot. Of course, I had to learn more when I got here. Really that, and then when I came here, I was glad that I made the decision. I’m excited because there are a lot of good people here that are here to help you.”

But it’s the 6-3, 259-pound Golden who is leading the Giants’ pass rush. The team did not have a sack in the season opener in Dallas but have had three in each of the five games since. Golden had a season-high 2.0 sacks at Tampa Bay in the Giants’ first victory, full sacks vs. Buffalo and Minnesota and half-sacks against Washington and New England. His 5.0 sacks leave him tied for eighth in the league.

“I’m in a good groove, I feel good, and I’m going to attack it,” Golden said. “You have to attack. I’ve been in attack mode every day, as far as taking care of my body, as far as going hard at practice, and doing everything I can do so that when game day comes, I don’t have anything in my head. I’m clear and I’m ready to go. That’s what I feel like I’ve been doing. Being able to be out there healthy, I’ve been able to learn a lot about myself each week watching film. So, that’s been helping, too. The mindset is to keep attacking.”

On Sunday, he will apply what he has learned against some of his closest friends, notably Cardinals left tackle D.J. Humphries.

“Me and him went at it (in practice),” Golden said. “He went first round and I went second, so we’ve been going at it since day one. It’s going to be exciting to get out there and go against him.”

Courtesy: Michael Eisen

Giants’ Golden: ‘We lost the game, so I wasn’t as excited about(playing the Patriots close before coming up short)’

A loss is a loss, and when Pat Shurmur boils it all down, the reason for a loss never radically changes.

“I think we didn’t make enough plays, we made too many mistakes to win a football game,” Shurmur said on a conference call today following his team’s 35-14 defeat at New England.

There’s no disputing that statement. The Giants gained just 213 yards, compiled only 10 first downs, were two-for-10 on third-down opportunities and committed four turnovers, including three interceptions on Daniel Jones passes. They allowed both a defensive (on a fumble return) and special teams (blocked punt) touchdown.

Shurmur and his players won’t use it as an excuse, but they played shorthanded. Their top two running backs, Saquon Barkley and Wayne Gallman, and two leading receivers, Evan Engram and Sterling Shepard, were all inactive due to injuries. If the Giants are going to win their next game – at home against the Arizona Cardinals on Oct. 20 – and enjoy success over the season’s final 10 games, it’s clear they need as many contributions as they can get from those players.

“We’re 2-4 and we’re certainly going to welcome anyone back that can get healthy to play against Arizona,” Shurmur said. “Everybody talked about the players that were injured and weren’t able to be with us last night, so yeah, I’m looking forward to getting everybody back. It’s a good thing when you’ve got a lot of healthy scratches when you put your 46-man (game day roster) together, so we’re looking forward to that. I think we’ll get through this weekend, and we’ve already started, but put all our effort into beating Arizona.”

Asked specifically about Barkley, the reigning NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year who has missed three games with a sprained ankle, Shurmur said, “We’ll see, we’ll see. He’s made good progress. He was out there running around today, so we’ll just have to see what the week brings.”

Prior to the game, football pundits gave the Giants little chance to win. The absences of the four key offensive players – who collectively accounted for an average of 227.4 yards in the first five games – was a major factor. But so was the opponent. New England is the defending Super Bowl champion, is now 6-0 and has the NFL’s top-ranked defense. The Patriots have also won 19 consecutive home games, including playoffs.

But the Giants trailed by just 21-14 entering the fourth quarter. New England scored two late touchdowns to balloon the final margin. Instead of feeling satisfied they kept it close, the players were angry they lost, despite the circumstances.

“We came into the game expecting to win the game,” Jones said. “Maybe other people were surprised, but I don’t think we were. We have a good football team. I don’t think we’re going to let this affect our confidence. When you look at last night, a lot of credit goes to the defense and how well they played. They kept us in the game. On offense, we know we can play better and we have to play better. We expected to be in the game, we expected to win the game. Obviously, we’re disappointed, but there are things to learn from it.”

“I am a win and loss guy, so I always go off of wins and losses,” said linebacker Markus Golden, who scored on a 42-yard fumble return and had a half-sack. “We lost the game, so I wasn’t as excited about (playing the Patriots close before coming up short), but there was a lot of positives that came from it after watching film. We did a lot of flying around, working together, a lot of guys were doing their job. That part is exciting, but at the end of the day, we want to try and get that win.”

Much of that will depend on the continued growth of Jones, who is now 2-2 as the team’s starter. For the first time, he completed less than 50% of his passes (15 of 31). The three-interception game was his first. But Jones continues to show toughness and smarts in and out of the pocket and an arm that can make any throw required of him.

As he does with injuries, Shurmur refuses to use the crutch of inexperience when assessing Jones’ miscues.

“I think, regardless of whether you’re in your first year in the league or you’ve been doing it for a very long time, what’s right is right and what’s wrong is wrong,” Shurmur said. “I think it’s fair to say that some of the things that Daniel’s going through, he’s going through for the first time. Part of his charm is he’s willing to try and fit it in there. I think he’s very accurate and he’s got good velocity on his throws, so he’s got confidence to get the ball in there, and he did that last night. Those were not the most ideal conditions to be throwing the ball at times, and I thought he made some really good throws. On the flip side of that, there were some things that happened on the interceptions that need to get corrected. That’s part of it, for all quarterbacks, and it’s a fine line between being aggressive and putting the ball in harm’s way. I think each play and each time he goes through it, he’ll learn something from it.”

Jones was picked off by John Simon in the first quarter, Duron Harmon in the second, and Stephon Gilmore in the third. Each turnover will be stored in his memory bank and used to prevent a repeat of the offending pass.

“That’s the biggest thing for me, is to prevent making a mistake twice,” Jones said. “I don’t think the fact that I’m young or the fact that I haven’t played much, it isn’t an excuse. I don’t think that helps. I’m not going to use that to help myself feel better. But there are still really bad mistakes, things I can’t afford to do. The challenge is I have to be able to learn from those and to prevent them from happening again.”

That will be easier to do when the Giants offense is again at or near full strength.

*Shurmur said defensive tackle Olsen Pierre’s concussion was the only injury of note from last night’s game.

*The Giants today re-signed quarterback Alex Tanney and waived running back Austin Walter. Because they had just two healthy backs, the Giants yesterday signed Walter off their practice squad and released Tanney. Walter played one snap vs. the Patriots.

Courtesy: Michael Eisen