When the New York Giants secured defensive coordinator James Bettcher from the Arizona Cardinals to relieve Steve Spagnuolo of his duties, defensive end Olivier Vernon knew a change was coming.
Soon after Bettcher was brought on, the Giants signed linebacker Kareem Martin and defensive lineman Josh Mauro. Both players introduce essential tools to help the team transition from the 4-3 to the 3-4 defensive scheme.
Imagine you were in the army and a new colonel came in to succeed the previous – the methods change, the tactics differ, and the personalities clash. For the remaining players on the defense, the change represents a fresh start with a new and improved regime. The change holds the keys to a revitalized team with a new mentality. Ultimately, it represents success.
What’s the potential for Olivier Vernon in the New York Giants’ defense?
For Vernon, he has never experienced life as an outside linebacker strictly before. He’s spent most of his time as a defensive end. It was thought the full transition would work wonders for his sack totals, as Chandlar Jones finished the 2017 season with 18 tackles – leading the league as a member of the Cardinals.
Bettcher knows how to blitz – that’s his specialty. Vernon will be his primary weapon, and we’ve already seen glimpses in training camp.
— Fran Duffy (@fduffy3) September 21, 2017
While this is from last season, it’s important to notice him in the standing position. We will see much more of that as he features as an OLB on the defensive front.
— Matt Lombardo (@MattLombardoNFL) August 15, 2018
According to Forbes, in regard to Vernon making the transition from DE to OLB:
“It’s a little, I guess, out of the norm,” Vernon said about what awaits him this season. “I’ve always been the defensive end. But it’s not like I’m not rushing no more or not doing what I normally did. It’s just different looks.”
According to Pro Football Focus, Vernon amassed 698 snaps last season. He lined up as an edge rusher on 612 plays, with a good chunk (246) coming as an outside linebacker. The looks were often “get to the quarterback” rather than bait and drop.
We can’t coin him as an OLB in a Spags defense, as he rarely ever saw time in coverage, and when he did, it was disastrous. The Giants will use him in a more unique way to contain opposing running backs and sit back in the middle of the field. He will, of course, rush the passer on a majority of plays, though.
One of the more interesting aspects of his new role will be momentum. Vernon is a strong/fast player, and his linebacker positioning will allow him to bolt straight through the offensive line given the big men up front can open up gaps for him.
With the Giants adding various new pieces on defense, it will likely take a few months for them to gain the chemistry necessary to operate at a high level. This might force Vernon to play more reps and stay on the field for longer periods. This doesn’t seem to be a problem for the veteran.
“As far as the workload, I never really thought about it,” he said. That’s what I train for. Whatever I can do to help and contribute, hopefully at the end of the day the defense comes up to win the game.”