The New York Giants may need a few players to become constant playmakers to make up for an offseason where they jettisoned three of their best players due to “culture change.” This, of course, coming after trading one of their best defensive players back in October. In order for the Giants to become contenders sooner rather than later, these players need to break out and perform up to their capabilities.
Jabrill Peppers, Safety
Coming from the Cleveland Browns in a trade, Jabrill Peppers will have large shoes to fill in the defense. Peppers was acquired to replace safety Landon Collins, who made the Pro Bowl in each of the last three years. After struggling his rookie season at free safety, Peppers was aligned closer to the line of scrimmage last year. As a result, Peppers was able to play more aggressively and make more plays. Peppers showed why the Browns selected him in the first round of the 2017 draft. According to PFF, Peppers ranked as the 18th overall safety in 2018. But he still has room to improve.
Giants general manager Dave Gettleman specifically requested for Peppers in trade talks for Odell Beckham. With the Browns complying, it would explain why Gettleman didn’t shop Odell around more prior to trading him.
Defensive coordinator James Bettcher raved about the versatility Peppers brings to the defense. Peppers played in 6 different positions, logging over 100 snaps in four of the six positions. Bettcher has experience utilizing players in multiple positions to the best of their abilities.
During the first full-team OTAs two weeks ago, Peppers proved why the Giants requested him. Logging an interception and a pass deflected, Peppers worked with his new teammates to consistently prevent the offense from reaching the red zone. If Peppers continues to familiarize himself with Bettcher’s scheme, look for him to shine on multiple ends of the field.
— Pro Football Focus (@PFF) March 14, 2019
Evan Engram, Tight End
The 23rd overall pick in the 2017 NFL draft has yet to live up to first-round pick expectations. Playing in only 58.8% of offensive snaps over the past two years, Evan Engram hasn’t played to his potential. Missing two games his rookie season and five games last season due to injuries didn’t help his cause either. That could change in 2019. Engram improved consistently throughout his first two years in the NFL. Whiles flashes were shown of what he is capable of, Engram has yet to put it together for a full season.
Evan Engram improved big time from Year 1 to Year 2 last season pic.twitter.com/Xr2igoDkuj
— Pro Football Focus (@PFF) March 9, 2019
In the four games Odell Beckham Jr. didn’t play in during the 2018 season, Engram showed the Giants what he can do. Not only did Engram improve in the passing game, but also in the run blocking schemes as well. Look for Engram to build off of what he’s accomplished so far.
With Odell gone for good, look for Engram to be targeted more than ever before. Although Engram may not become the Giants’ number one target, he could finally become one of the prominent tight ends of the NFC. Look for Engram to finally break 1000 receiving yards and 7 touchdowns, while providing blocking help for RB Saquon Barkley to stomp all over the field.
Lorenzo Carter, Linebacker/Defensive End
Lorenzo Carter isn’t a household name, but he could become one soon. Carter played in 15 games, starting 2, however, he was limited later in the season due to a shoulder injury. In the two games Carter started in 2018, he was filling in for Olivier Vernon. With the Giants’ leading pass-rusher gone, Carter will have a chance to fill in at outside linebacker full-time.
Carter finished his rookie season with 4 sacks, 30 tackles (7 for a loss), 10 quarterback hits, and 4 deflected passes. With newcomers Dexter Lawrence and Markus Golden attracting the attention of offensive lines, look for Carter to be utilized as another versatile piece under defensive coordinator Bettcher. I expect Carter to finish next season with double the sacks and over 50 tackles, including 12 for a loss. These numbers won’t catapult Carter into the All-Pro teams, but he can become a prominent figure on the defense.
Special Mention – Markus Golden, Defensive End
Rather than list him as a breakout candidate, Markus Golden should be considered a rebound candidate. In 2016, Golden tallied 12.5 sacks while accruing 4 forced fumbles, 22 quarterback hits and 51 tackles. All this came while playing as a linebacker and starting only 3 games. In 2017, looking to build off a successful season, Golden tore his ACL, cutting his season to just 4 games. When he returned in 2018, Golden was a shell of his 2016 form, playing in 11 games and tallying only 2.5 sacks.
Golden was signed this offseason on a one-year deal to help the depleted Giants defense. Three other teams were in the running to sign Golden, including the Super Bowl contending Kansas City Chiefs. However, it’s likely Golden picked New York over the others for a previous coach who helped him shine.
A reunion with James Bettcher, who was the defensive coordinator in Arizona when Golden broke out in 2016, should help bring him back to form. Furthermore, another year removed from the ACL injury will be beneficial. The Giants have faith that Golden can return to form, giving the defense a much needed pass-rush presence. If everything goes right for Golden, he could breakout yet again.