If you’ve got it, use it.
This is one of the lessons James Bettcher, the Giants’ defensive coordinator, is trying to impart on Lorenzo Carter, outside linebacker and, just maybe, the answer to one of the most critical question of all looming over this team entering the 2019 season:
Who the heck is going to get after the opposing quarterback?
There is reason to believe the answer is the long-legged, extremely long-armed second-year stud from Georgia, as long as he develops and does not fall by the wayside. This franchise too-often fails to identify and develop young talent, and if Carter heeds the advice bestowed upon him he could break through.
“Length is a plus,’’ Carter said last week. “It’s always better to be long. It’s something coach Bettch, he always says, ‘You’re long, don’t shrink down, don’t try to play smaller than you are. Play long, play explosive.’ Explosiveness with length is a deadly thing.’’
If he does what is being asked of him?
“Deadly pass rusher,’’ Carter said.
A deadly pass rusher is what Giants’ fans were thrilled to see fall into their laps early in the first round of this year’s NFL draft, when Josh Allen of Kentucky was on the board when the Giants were on the clock with the No. 6-overall pick. This perfect marriage of need and value never was consummated, as the Giants fell in love with quarterback Daniel Jones. They did not address their dearth of sacks (30 in 2018) until the third round, with the selection of Oshane Ximines of Old Dominion.
Ximines has potential and Markus Golden, signed to a one-year deal, has a résumé (12.5 in 2016 with the Cardinals) but has not been the same since knee surgery in 2017. Carter, only 23 years old, could be the next big thing for the Giants, more Osi Umenyiora than Owa Odighizuwa.
Perhaps the development of Carter will ease the passing on Allen in the draft.
“They didn’t get a pass rusher but I didn’t look at it like that,’’ Carter said. “I’m looking at me going into Year 2, what steps I need to make to be better. I guess they showed faith but I want to go out there and prove it to myself and prove it to everybody else.
“That was my whole thing, coming into Year 2, I don’t want any potential, ‘He has the potential,’ or, ‘Oh, he can do this.’ I’m doing it. I want to be the guy that’s doing it.’’
Carter produced four sacks as a rookie and at times flashed a vision of what the Giants need him to become. At 6-foot-5 and 252 pounds, he possesses the long limbs of a rebounder and his reach allows him to ensnare the ball-carrier by extending his arms for maximum coverage. His elongated legs do not hurt, either.
“Lorenzo’s really fast,’’ outside linebacker Kareem Martin said. “You know how they say kinda deceptive speed? He kinda has it because he has a long stride and that with is arms takes a lot of people by surprise.’’
Pleasant and curious, Carter accepted his role in his NFL debut season, taking in the lessons of veterans Olivier Vernon and Connor Barwin. At Washington in late December, he had four solo tackles and a sack. Mostly, he was going off instinct and physical ability. Carter added about 10 pounds of muscle and at times during practices this spring took up residence in the offensive backfield.
“He is rushing with a plan,’’ Bettcher said. “A year ago he was trying to get off the ball as quick as he could and use his hands when he could. Now, you see a guy that is aware of how he wants to rush, aware of techniques that he wants to rush with. Guys that get in there as pass rushers, you see their best growth in the two and three years. You start to figure out what they are as rushers. He is really starting to figure that out. He is building his pass-rush toolbox right now.’’
Bettcher said Carter worked in practice “as hard as anyone on the field.’’ As a third-round pick, much is expected. He wants to be more of a motivator for his teammates, in every way.
“Up front we need an alpha,’’ Carter said, “and I’m looking forward to trying to do that.’’
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