The Giants taking ‘by committee’ approach to their pass rush

“By committee” is a phrase that often prompts cold sweats or head-shaking skepticism whenever it is uttered — and rightfully so.

“By committee” often means there is no single person capable or willing to do the task, which is why a group is assembled.

“By committee” can be a death knell, as far as getting anything substantive accomplished, with all the layers and individuals and agendas that must be navigated.

For the Giants, “by committee” likely is the way their pass rush will operate in 2020. Of their returning players, Lorenzo Carter and Oshane Ximines, both outside linebackers, each is coming off a season with 4.5 sacks, representing their most productive NFL seasons (Ximines was a rookie in 2019). In free agency, the Giants brought in Kyler Fackrell, another outside linebacker, who had 10.5 sacks for the Packers in 2018, but dipped last season, with only one sack in reduced snaps.

In free agency, pass-rushers Shaquil Barrett and Matthew Judon stayed put with the franchise tag, Arik Armstead re-signed with the 49ers and Dante Fowler signed with the Falcons. Jadeveon Clowney is unsigned and Yannick Ngakoue wants out of Jacksonville even though the Jaguars put the franchise tag on him. Markus Golden, who led the Giants with 10 sacks in 2019, is also unsigned.

Oshane Ximines
Oshane XiminesAP

“Right now, this is the decision we made,” general manager Dave Gettleman said of his approach to finding pass-rushers. “We’re just going to move forward the way we are now.”

The upcoming draft is not a hotbed of pass-rush talent, unless something funky happens in the first three picks and somehow Chase Young of Ohio State drops into the Giants’ lap at No. 4. Perhaps the Giants can uncover a hidden gem.

There are many reasons why the Giants, since winning their most recent Super Bowl following the 2011 season, went into a steady and alarming decline. Poor drafts in the latter years of the Jerry Reese regime were the main culprits. Part of that is the collapse of the pipeline of pass-rush talent that had produced Michael Strahan, Osi Umenyiora, Justin Tuck, Mathias Kiwanuka and Jason Pierre-Paul, leaving the Giants vulnerable to every opposing quarterback with even a modicum of passing ability.

“A lot of people were raised with the 2007 and 2011 Super Bowl teams where we could consistently apply pressure with four,” Gettleman said. “That is the goal, that’s what you want. You can’t manufacture it and you can’t overpay for it. What it really comes down to is, it doesn’t matter who gets the sacks, it’s about how many sacks you actually get. It really is about how much pressure you apply.

“Some of this is going to have to come through scheme. Obviously, we haven’t gone through the draft yet. With where we’re at, would I not want two defensive ends that are 25-sacks-a-year guys? Who doesn’t? We are not in that position right now, so we will just keep building it.”

The “scheme” Gettleman refers to is how the Giants hope to get it done on defense. New defensive coordinator Patrick Graham spent seven years with the Patriots as a defensive assistant, getting an up-close look at how Bill Belichick wants that side of the ball to operate. Graham worked for the Giants (defensive line coach), Packers and Dolphins before new head coach Joe Judge hired him to run the defense. Graham was the Dolphins’ defensive coordinator in 2019.

Graham is expected to run a 3-4 base defense, but it will be multiple in design, with plenty of 4-3 fronts mixed in.

During Judge’s eight years in New England, only twice did a Patriots player reach double-digits in sacks — Chandler Jones (11.5 and 12.5) in 2013 and 2015, respectively. The sack leaders the other years were Rob Ninkovich (8 sacks in 2012 and again in 2014), Trey Flowers (7, 6.5 and 7.5 sacks from 2016-18) and Jamie Collins (7 sacks) in 2019.

It seems like “by committee” worked for the Patriots. That is difficult to replicate elsewhere, though.

“I think you have to use what you have available to you,” Judge said. “Everybody really wants an elite guy. I think that’s a true statement. No one’s going to turn down a good football player. But you have to find ways, if you don’t have necessarily that one elite guy, of getting production out of maybe two to three other players that complement each other.”

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