The New York Giants‘ defense was one of the worst in the NFL in 2018. The unit ranked 24th in the league allowing Â 371.4 yards per game. The Giants’ linebacker corps was one of the team’s biggest weak spots.
Alec Ogletree managed to put together a strong statistical season, but advanced stats and film reveal that he was less than impressive in 2018. He will need to improve in 2019 in order for the Giants’ defense to be better.
One main problem with the Giants’ linebackers is their poor play in pass coverage. Often times, the Giants get ripped apart by tight ends and running backs matched up against linebackers.
The Giants have a darkhorse candidate on their roster to fix that problem in their linebacker corps. Edge rusher Lorenzo Carter’s underrated coverage skills could make him a solid linebacker in the Giants’ struggling defense.
How Other Edge Defenders Have Transitioned:
Edge defenders are not typically known to have advanced coverage skills. Most edge rushers are given the role of strictly rushing the passer. This has been Lorenzo Carter’s role on the majority of his defensive snaps.
However, occasionally, edge defenders are asked to drop back into coverage, similar to an inside linebacker. This usually results in a mismatch in the offense’s favor as edge defenders typically have poor coverage skills.
But some edge defenders do not have poor coverage skills. Some are actually quite skilled in coverage. Anthony Barr is a prime example of a talented collegiate pass-rusher who transitioned to linebacker in the NFL thanks to his coverage skills.
Coming out of college, Barr was considered a top-ten talent for his pass-rushing abilities. His NFL.com draft profile by Nolan Nawrocki described Barr as “a highly disruptive, athletic specimen with the pass-rush potential to effortlessly emerge as a double-digit sack producer.”
We are five seasons into Anthony Barr’s career and he has only totaled 13.5 sacks with a season-high of 4. This has not hurt Anthony’s career at all though, because of his transition to linebacker. Barr is now one of the highest-paid linebackers in the NFL since transitioning to an off-ball position and proving himself to be a solid coverage linebacker.
Lorenzo Carter’s Underrated Coverage Skills:
Lorenzo Carter is very similar to Anthony Barr. Carter is a skilled young pass-rusher with tons of raw potential. Lorenzo totaled 4 sacks and 10 quarterback hits in hisÂ 2018 rookie campaign. He also recorded 43 combined tackles and 7 tackles for loss.
But Carter’s coverage abilities make him an extra special talent. Lorenzo started to prove himself to be a solid coverage guy in the 2018 preseason. According to Pro Football Focus, Carter had the top coverage grade (89.4) among edge defenders in the preseason with a minimum of 5 coverage snaps.
Lorenzo then continued to flash his great coverage abilities in the regular season. Pro Football Focus states that Carter finished the season with a coverage grade over 80.0. He was one of two rookie edge defenders to reach this threshold.
Carter’s most impressive game in coverage came against the San Fransico 49ers in week 10 of the 2018 season. Lorenzo Carter had himself a day against the 49ers. His 88.5 coverage grade on Monday Night was the highest coverage grade of any ED targeted at least twice in Week 10 (Pro Football Focus).
Lorenzo Carter has the size, length, and speed to match up against tight ends in coverage. He has been doing it since college:
They rarely played him at OLB, but here's a clip of Lorenzo Carter guarding TE Mark Andrews in man coverage. Raw, but you can see the traits pic.twitter.com/3hM8OtGsbW
— Jordan Reid (@JReidNFL) April 11, 2018
Lorenzo Carter has tons of potential as a pass-rusher off the edge, so he should continue to play that position. However, the Giants’ linebacker corps struggles in pass-coverage. The Giants should start using Lorenzo Carter in coverage more often, moving him to inside linebacker occasionally to take advantage of his excellent coverage skills.