The New York Giants signed two free-agent defensive ends -- their own Jason Pierre-Paul and the Miami Dolphins' Olivier Vernon. And while you're going to tell me that they like to move guys around, odds are one of them is going to line up primarily at right defensive end, over the left tackle, and be expected to produce as the team's best edge rusher.
This used to be Pierre-Paul's job. Two seasons ago, the Giants barely moved him at all -- lining up up at right defensive end more or less exclusively and tinkering on the side opposite him depending on down, distance and opponent. But Pierre-Paul has obviously been through a lot since then, and there remain legitimate questions about what kind of player he can be expected to be with his right hand still badly damaged from last July 4's fireworks accident.
"I think we have some flexibility there," Giants coach Ben McAdoo said Wednesday at the NFL owners meetings in Boca Raton, Florida. "I think that's a good conversation to have, and I think that's a good problem to have. I think we'll be able to move some guys around in pass rushing situations and on first and second down."
But something McAdoo said earlier in the conversation gave a better clue as to the way the Giants see the situation with their defensive ends. He was talking about why the team liked Vernon so much and slipped into a discussion about how they planned to use him.
"He was one of the most disruptive players I'd seen on film last year, and we wanted him to be a part of it," McAdoo said of Vernon, whose Dolphins played the Giants in Week 14. "Quarterback rating differential is big in the game today, and the more you can impact that quarterback from a defensive end position from his blind side, the more it's going to make an impact."
Catch that? "From his blind side." Most quarterbacks are right-handed, meaning the blind side is the left side of the offensive line. Seems like an indication that the Giants plan to use Vernon at right defensive end, and it would make a lot of sense. His contract is five years, $85 million with $52.5 million in guarantees. Pierre-Paul's contract is for one year and $10 million with $8.5 million guaranteed. Vernon is nearly two years younger than Pierre-Paul, and that fact combined with the difference in the financial commitments the team made to them indicates that the Giants view Vernon as the more integral part of their defensive foundation moving forward.
It's also worth noting that Pierre-Paul and the Giants' pass rush took a step forward last year when the Giants moved Pierre-Paul to left defensive end, where he could dominate right tackles with his speed and burst and put his healthy left hand on the ground instead of his tender right hand. That's probably the better position for Pierre-Paul moving forward, though the Giants also know they can move him inside to defensive tackle in pass rush situations as well.
So we'll see how this all shakes out this spring and summer, and it'll surely be subject to change depending on how everybody plays. But it looks from here as if the Giants are all-in on Vernon as the anchor of their pass rush of the future, which means they probably want to line him up against left tackles.