Countdown to Camp: Predicting the Giants' 2020 Sack Leader

Jackson Thompson

New Giants defensive coordinator Patrick Graham will inherit a pass rush unit that finished 22nd in sacks in the NFL last year, and he might not even have the team's leading sack artist.

The Giants placed the seldom-used UFA tender on edge rusher Markus Golden back in April. If no other team signs the 29-year-old before the first training camp open, then Golden will return to the Giants in 2020 on a $5.225 million salary.

Golden led the team in sacks in 2019 with 10, while the rest of the pass rush generated 26.

If Golden returns, naturally, the thought process would be to pick him as the team's potential sack leader. But both general manager Dave Gettleman and head coach Joe Judge have said that the goal this year is to create quarterback pressure and sacks by committee because the team lacks a pure No. 1 edge rusher like Von Miller or Khalil Mack.

Someone on this Giants team will lead the defense in sacks. Who will it be?

Second-year man Oshane Ximines would be an obvious candidate for the team sack lead considering that as a rookie out of Old Dominion, he had a solid season, posting 4.5 sacks in limited opportunities. Ximines is CBS Sports' choice for the Giants' most likely player to have a breakout season in 2020.

Ximines was able to match teammate Lorenzo Carter's sack total in 2019 with less playing time, only playing 43.6 percent of defensive snaps. Ximines brought a superior pass-rush technique and arsenal of power and finesse moves as a prospect, which translated impressively to the NFL level in his limited time as a rookie.

Another player many believe could lead the Giants in sacks is defensive lineman Leonard Williams. The Giants, who famously traded for Williams midway through last season, only racked up half a sack last season. Yet, the team still felt comfortable using the $16.1 million franchise tag on Williams to retain his services through at least 2020.

According to Pro Football Focus, no player had a more significant difference between their pressure rate and sack rate rank than Williams. Among 87 defensive linemen, ranked 13th in pressure rate at 11.3 percent is and even led the position with 19 quarterback hits.

Some have even projected Kyler Fackrell to be the Giants 2020 sack leader. Fackrell achieved double-digit sacks for the Packers in 2018 when Patrick Graham was his position coach, yet despite that feat, the Packers went out and signed pass rushers Preston Smith and Za'Darius Smith to bolster their pass rush.

Fackrell doesn't boast elite burst or bend for an NFL edge rusher. However, he brings a gritty and emotional attitude and past success as a young veteran to a thin and young edge-rushing group.

These are all good candidates to lead the Giants in sacks, but the guy I think will end up with the team's pass rush title in 2020 is third-year linebacker Lorenzo Carter.

Carter saw a significant role increase in 2019 from his rookie season, starting 12 games and playing 69.7 percent of defensive snaps, but his sack totals could have been higher if he was used more as a pass rusher instead of being misused in other roles.

Carter was used primarily as a defensive utility player, having to drop into coverage, cover backs out the backfield, and carry tight ends vertically under former defensive coordinator James Betcher.

Carter is at his best when moving forward, something he didn't do a lot under Bettcher. Put him in the hunter's role more often, and given his burst and quickness off the snap, he has the toolset to increase last year's career-high pressure total of 35.

For Carter, now is the time to take that next step. He has a long career in front of him, but he needs to find a way to put it all together to reach the potential, so many people believe he had coming out of Georgia.

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