giants giants edge
Syndication: The Record

The Giants will have a number of individuals they could include in the edge rusher rotation this upcoming season.

The intelligence and creativity of defensive coordinator Patrick Graham led to the Giants employing an improved pass rush last year in comparison to previous seasons.

What worked wonders was Graham’s usage of an edge rusher rotation. Numerous individuals saw time and found themselves in the mix.

But now it’s 2021; some faces are new while some from 2020 are out of East Rutherford.

What could the Giants’ edge rusher position/rotation look like this season?

Azeez Ojulari: Bulk of the reps?

Some believed the Giants could’ve acquired an edge rusher in the opening round of this year’s draft. But it wasn’t until No. 50 overall in the second round when they decided to pull the trigger.

New York ultimately selected Azeez Ojulari, a highly talented pass rusher out of Georgia who earned second-team All-SEC honors last season. At 6-foot-3, 229 pounds, Ojulari portrays great athleticism and vision and is expected to assume a notable level of responsibility in his rookie campaign.

Given the significant investment made in him along with his pure talent, there’s a chance the coaching staff ends up preferring him over alternative options (such as Lorenzo Carter and/or Oshane Ximines).

The future is bright for the 21-year-old; don’t be surprised if he’s eventually the team’s top dog at the edge rusher position.

Lorenzo Carter/Oshane Ximines: Fighting for their jobs?

It seems to me the Giants may be phasing out some guys who were acquired during the two-year Pat Shurmur era (2018-19).

Unfortunately, Lorenzo Carter (2018 third-rounder) and Oshane Ximines (2019 third-rounder) could find themselves in that group at some point.

Neither Carter nor Ximines have consistently produced or remained healthy.

Carter hasn’t developed too significantly since entering the league (4.0 sacks in 2018, 4.5 sacks in 2019) and missed 11 games last year after an Achilles tendon rupture. Ximines, on the other hand, missed 12 matchups in 2020 with a shoulder injury and has only 4.5 sacks and 12 quarterback hits through 20 career matchups.

Could either be fighting for a roster spot later this summer?

Expected reserves: Free-agent pickups Anderson/Odenigbo

What’s great is the Giants possess depth at this position — they need to if they’re going to make an edge rusher rotation work effectively.

Free-agent pickups Ryan Anderson and Ifeadi Odenigbo may earn reserve reps and so could second-year players Cam Brown and Carter Coughlin (should the latter two make the final roster). 2021 fourth-round pick Elerson Smith is also expected to be in the mix — the Giants certainly see something in him they like.

Let’s start with the 2021 free-agent pickups.

Odenigbo, specifically, has existing potential — his acquisition back in March was a low-risk signing for New York. The Giants inked him to a one-year, $2.5 million deal after he combined for 10.5 sacks the last two seasons with Minnesota.

Anderson, on the other hand, carries upside as a 2017 second-round draft selection. Washington wasn’t able to fully unlock Ryan’s potential through four seasons, but that doesn’t mean new beginnings in East Rutherford can’t lead to a career resurgence for him.

Expected reserves: Second-year players Brown/Coughlin

Cam Brown and Carter Coughlin (a pair of 2020 late-round draft picks) could find reps at inside linebacker in a 3-4 scheme but are at least options on the edge. Both have ground to cover on the pass-rushing front though — the two combined for one sack and five quarterback hits last year.

Time will tell either’s role (if either makes the final roster past training camp).

Expected reserves: Rookie Elerson Smith

And finally, there’s Elerson Smith, who will work as more of a reserve while he grows at the professional level.

As a fourth-rounder from an FCS program (Northern Iowa) who didn’t experience a 2020 season due to COVID-19, Smith will need to be coached up a crucial amount and it’ll take some time for him to reach his full potential. Like offensive tackle Matthew Peart (who was a rookie backup last year and might be a starter this year), Smith is a project; someone who must undergo an immense developmental period.

He may earn reps in heavy pass-rush situations as well as on special teams (initially).

Ryan Honey is a staff writer and host of the Wide Right Podcast.