Film Analysis | How Lorenzo Carter Has Been Misused in the Giants Defense

Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

Gene Clemons

One of the many mysteries of the 2019 season was why, despite all kinds of promise and enthusiasm, second-year outside linebacker Lorenzo Carter failed to take the step forward many people thought he was capable of making.

To recap, Carter, out of the University of Georgia, saw a bump in defensive snaps, from 442 as a rookie to 723 in his second season. Despite that increase, he only finished with two more tackles, a half more sacks, and six more total pressures.

Before we go and dust off the “bust” label, it’s essential to review how he was used in now-former defensive coordinator James Bettcher’s defense, and then spin ahead to how new defensive coordinator Patrick Graham might take better advantage of Carter’s skill set.

Carter is most effective when he is rushing the passer and using his speed-to-power moves as a 9-tech (outside the tight end’s alignment) to overwhelm offensive linemen.

In Carter’s two seasons with the Giants, he has been used to drop into coverage, cover backs out the backfield, and carry tight ends vertically.

He has lined up at defensive end, outside linebacker, middle linebacker, and defensive tackle. Despite this inconsistency, he has still managed to sack the QB at least four times each year.

Carter is a hunter, and in many instances over the last two seasons, he was not allowed to hunt. The interesting part is that the Giants had someone doing the very same job for which Carter is the ideal fit. That player is unrestricted free agent Markus Golden, who produced ten sacks playing the position for which Carter was tailor-made.

Here’s an example of a play in which Carter lined up wide where he was able to put his natural skills to good use in creating a strip-sack against Patriots quarterback Tom Brady. 

On this play, Carter comes in from the 9-technique (lining up just outside the tight end’s outside shoulder), where Carter puts his speed on display in bending the edge and getting home with the pass rush.

Below is a photo of the Giants’ front on 3rd-and-medium against Washington’s one-back set.

NFL Game Pass

Carter is aligned in a 4i-technique (inside shade of the tackle), and Golden is aligned in a ghost 9-technique (outside of where the tight end would be).

When we look at the film and the inconsistent way the Giants used Carter, and we wonder what Graham might be thinking regarding personnel deployment moving forward, an excellent place to start is to look at how the Patriots and Packers did things during Graham’s tenure there

In the following two screenshots, you can see New England and Green Bay aligned to Washington’s one-back set on 3rd and medium.

NFL Game Pass

The Patriots have two defensive linemen aligned in 2-techniques (head-up vs. the guards) and two stand-up ghost 9-techniques.

NFL Game Pass

The Packers also have two defensive players aligned over the guards in 2-techniques and two ghost 9-techniques. They also have two other defensive players on the line of scrimmage, but they are all standing except for one. This makes it more difficult for Washington to know who is coming.

Graham deployed a similar look in his role as defensive coordinator with Miami.

NFL Game Pass

The one down lineman is at nose guard with two backers standing up in 3-techniques (outside eye of the guard), and two stand up 9-techniques. All of them could be rushing, or any combination could be.

So, where does Carter likely fit into Graham’s scheme moving forward? Most likely as that 9-technique spot where he has the athleticism necessary to bend the edge and become a much more productive outside linebacker along the lines of what the Giants likely envisioned when they drafted him in the third round of the 2018 draft.