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How Versatile Carter Coughlin Could Help the Giants Pass Rush

Carter Coughlin's former position coach/defensive coordinator Joe Rossi tells Giants Country that his former student-athlete has some very appealing traits that can potentially boost the Giants pass rush.

By the time a team gets to the seventh round of its draft class, the selections made generally tend to be something of a crapshoot.

But that’s not to say that a team can’t find gold among a group of players who straddle the line between earning draft pick status and being part of the more competitive undrafted free agent pool.

The Giants, who had four picks in the seventh round—three of whom were linebackers—obviously would like them all to succeed.

But if there is one guy in particular that they might be especially interested in getting an immediate contribution from, that would probably be edge Carter Coughlin, the first of their seventh-round picks.

The Giants pass rush has been stagnant in the last several years. In 2019, it finished 22nd in the league last year in the sacks per pass attempt category, a slight "improvement" from their 30th place ranking in 2018.

And the pass rush hasn’t ranked in the top half of the league in sacks per pass attempt since 2014 when they ranked second with a 9.0% sacks per pass attempt percentage after recording 47.0 sacks that season.

Coughlin alone probably won’t propel the Giants pass rush into the top half of the league, but right now, the Giants need as many young and productive pass rushers to start lighting a fire under opposing quarterbacks.

Despite his potential, Coughlin will likely need to carve out a niche for himself given the veteran depth in front of him.

But Joe Rossi, his position coach and defensive coordinator at the University of Minnesota, thinks Coughlin will have no trouble hitting the ground running as the Giants begin to ramp up their training.

“Veterans definitely hold the upper hand because they have more experience and reps under their belt. But when it comes to Coughlin matching up against the younger guys, he’ll be just fine given how hard he works along with how he prepares in the film room,” Rossi told Giants Country by phone.

In four seasons for the Golden Gophers (2016-19), Coughlin racked up 106 tackles and 22.5 sacks in 47 games. He also earned back-to-back Second-team All-Big Ten Conference honors the past two seasons.

The 23-year-old linebacker’s best campaign came as a junior in 2018, where he had a career-high 9.5 sacks, 34 solo tackles, 15 tackles for a loss, and four forced fumbles.

As a result, Pro Football Focus awarded Coughlin with the third-best single-season pass-rushing grade in Big Ten history, where he scored a 92.2 finishing right behind Ohio State superstars Nick Bosa and Chase Young.

The 6-3, 236-pound Coughlin was often successful catching opponents off-guard with his speed. Minnesota often used Coughlin as a hybrid type outside linebacker in a 3-4 formation, allowing him to roam around the line of scrimmage. If he wasn’t putting pressure on the quarterback, he covered tight ends or manned the flat.

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While Coughlin doesn’t have the prototypical frame of a pure edge rusher, his former defensive coordinator feels he makes up for this with his speed.

“Instead of being a power guy, he uses his acceleration to win pass-rushing battles,” Rossi said. “We put him head up over the tight end in the six technique a lot and had confidence he’d win the matchup.”

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In case anyone is concerned that Coughlin doesn’t have any power in his game, Rossi said that’s not the case.

“Yeah, he plays bigger. He was lined head up over the tight end in the 6-technique a lot,” Rossi said.

“He handled guys from a physical standpoint, especially some of those guys at Iowa who went in the first round a couple of years like (49ers tight end) George Kittle.”

Rossi believes that speed and quickness will give Coughlin an edge in the Giants' very crowded linebacker room.

“People say he’s undersized, which leads to him being overlooked. But I think he’s got the potential to be an impact player with his legit top-end speed. That makes up for his size,” he said.

Rossi believes Coughlin’s skill set should make him a fit for a variety of roles, including as a 3-4 outside linebacker.

“A lot of what we did in our 4-3 had 3-4 concepts where he’s either rushing, covering the tight end, or dropping into the flat,” Rossi said. “He roamed in some of our three-down packages where he’d blitz or drop back into the curl. The only thing Coughlin doesn’t have experience with is being a true off-ball linebacker.”

Rossi said that players can always look to get better in everything they do, but when it comes to Coughlin, there’s one area, in particular in which he’s hoping to see the youngster progress.

“If there’s one thing he needs to improve on, it’s finishing at the top of the rush and end of the play,” Rossi said, adding he was confident that Coughlin’s work tireless ethic that he showed during his time in Minnesota would show no signs of slowing down now that he’s with the Giants.

“I think he’ll embrace the competition this summer,” Rossi said. “He always played and practiced hard despite knowing his place was solidified as a starter. Now, he must go into camp and compete to earn his spot.

“So, I know he’s going to have that extra motivation given his competitiveness and hunger to learn and study. He also has experience on special teams, which makes him more valuable.”

(Additional reporting by Patricia Traina.)