Giants’ Olivier Vernon Poised For A Big Year – How Has He Looked?

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.

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.

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.”

What DC James Bettcher Can Do With Giants’ Olivier Vernon

When defensive coordinator for the New York Giants, James Bettcher, took one look at Olivier Vernon, he knew what must be done to extract the most value from the dominant defensive end. Vernon has struggled to live up to the expectations set forth after signing a massive five-year, $85 million deal.

The Giants’ defensive end has only recorded 15 sacks in two season in New York. He missed four games in 2017 due to injury. For comparisons sake, Bettcher helped Chandler Jones rack up 17 sacks last season to lead the NFL. How did he do so? He transition Jones to an outside linebacker from edge rusher. This allowed Jones to exploit gaps in the offensive line and keep the offense on their heels.

Bettcher brings a 3-4 defense to the Giants, which relies on three down lineman and linebackers to filled the gaps in the running game and get after the quarterback. Vernon will play an outside linebacker role, similar to Jones in 2017. As he grows in comfort with the scheme and his assignments, we should expect to see an uptick in his sack totals.

Giants’ Olivier Vernon’s strengths:

While Vernon has lacked in sack totals, we can’t ignore his ability to put pressure on the quarterback. In 2016, he managed 86 pressures, trailing only Khalil Mack (96).

As a linebacker, Vernon could increase both totals as he will start from an upright position and utilize his hands and momentum to get around the edge. As an OLB, he will line-up a bit further than a tradition edge rusher, giving him the ability to swing inside and work cohesively with B.J. Goodson and Alec Ogletree.

“Finding what some of the strengths of the guys that we have on the field and trying to put those guys in the best possible position,” Bettcher told Giants reporters at minicamp when asked about where the pressure will come from. “OV [defensive end Olivier Vernon], we know is a dynamic guy. A guy that can rush from different angles, a guy that you can move around and put in different matchups. And he’s embraced everything that we’ve done to this point. I’ve loved working with him and I think he’s making some great progress, not just in this scheme, but I think as I’ve looked at him as a player, he’s sharpening his tools right now.”

If Vernon can refine his skill set and improve for the season ahead, we could see a completely different player come September. Making the transition to OLB is difficult, but Vernon played a similar role while in Miami. His muscle memory should assist in getting a grasp of the system rather smoothly.

When testing the new scheme against the offense, safety Landon Collins expressed his excitement about the new defense, as it has given Eli Manning headaches due to five pass rushers blitzing Manning on nearly every snap. Under Steve Spagnuolo we saw a blitz heavy defense, but Bettcher utilizes his pass rushers even more-so. The league average of blitzing in 2017 was 28.2% on dropbacks – Bettcher sent the blitz 36.6% of the time.

We should expect to see Vernon play a vital role in the new system.

2018 Season Will Determine Olivier Vernon’s Future With The New York Giants

As the New York Giants change gears on the defense and begin to adapt to a 3-4 scheme, former defensive end for Steve Spagnuolo’s defense, Olivier Vernon, is making the transition to outside linebacker.

Vernon has played as a defensive end for his his entire career, and making the move to linebacker will surely have its growing pains, as the Giants’ most lethal edge rusher has vocalized. Vernon stated that he’s still getting used to the different placements of being a linebacker and being in the right spot. He will likely line up more on the exterior of the offensive line, rather than battling in the trenches.

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New defensive coordinator James Bettcher has had success with transitioned defensive ends to linebackers, as Chandlar Jones had an NFL leading 17 sacks in 2017. Based on Jones’ stats alone, you can see that his success at linebacker trumps his defensive end stats by a landslide. In three seasons as a tradition DE, Jones racked up 24.5 sacks. In two season under Bettcher at linebacker, he managed a whopping 28 sacks.

In 2017, Jones also saw an increase in overall tackles by 13 (38 to 51) in a single season. It’s clear that Bettcher knows how to utilize his transformed defensive ends, and he will try to implement the same with Vernon.

The question is: What if Vernon doesn’t pan out as an outside linebacker?

If Vernon struggles to adapt to his new role on defense, he could potentially be a salary-cap cut in 2019.

The Giants have an out in his contract, which they would save a hefty $11.5 million by letting him go. Eating the $8 million in dead-cap space might be necessary if general manager Dave Gettleman can manage to grab a young DE/OLB in the ’19 NFL Draft.

Opening up that cap-space would allow Gettleman to allocate more money to resigning Odell Beckham Jr. and Landon Collins.

Vernon will have to muster a stellar season to ensure his spot on the team is retained.

 

 

New York Giants: Top Breakout Player Of 2018

With the New York Giants preparing to make arguably their most important draft choice in the past decade, speculation is surrounding the organization and fan-base. But, let’s take a break from the speculation and take a look at who is bound for a huge year in 2018.

The potential breakout player of the year:

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The Giants saw most of their players struggle last season for obvious reasons, and hopefully a majority of them will return with a vengeance. They will all likely improve from the lost 2017 season, but the one player that is bound for a huge year is defensive end Olivier Vernon.

In 2017, Vernon suffered a high ankle sprain in week four, but continued to play throughout the year despite the significant injury. An additional hand injury also was problematic for the edge rusher.

Interesting stat:

Since 2013, only two more edge rushers have registered more quarterback hits than Vernon.

Former Arizona Cardinals’ DC James Bettcher took defensive end Chandler Jones to the next level, as he recorded 17 sacks in a 3-4 defense. If Bettcher implements a similar system in New York, players like Vernon and JPP should benefit significantly.

With an injured ankle and hand, Vernon recorded 6.5 sacks and 23 total tackles. These numbers are abysmal for a player taking up $16 million in cap-space (2017) and $17 million in 2018.

Luckily for the Giants, there’s an out in 2019 in regard to Vernon’s contract, which would open up $19.5 million in cap-space. If general manager Dave Gettleman decides to release Vernon and Eli Manning, the Giant could see themselves with upwards of $40 million in open cap.

With several big signings this off-season, Big Blue will have significant freedom to sign some high-profile players come 19′.