Keidel: Drafting Chase Young Would Fix Giants' Putrid Pass Rush

Jason Keidel
December 13, 2019 - 1:32 pm
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We can - and do - debate the state of the New York Football Giants, a team in a tailspin and losers of nine straight games. 

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Do you fire Pat Shurmur, a smart man with a slight manner who doesn't squeeze the last beads of sweat out of a team? Do you fire general manager Dave Gettleman, with his patronizing pressers and nauseating Boston accent, who booted the team's best players but hasn't put a proud product on the field?  

We seem to be simpatico on Daniel Jones, who has kept his “Danny Dimes” sobriquet despite losing two months’ worth of games. But it leaves one vital variable in the foul air around the Meadowlands. What do they do with their inevitably high draft pick? 

Big Blue (2-11) battles the Dolphins (3-10) this week, and a loss will leave them widely viewed as the worst team in the NFL. They will still be one game behind the Bengals (1-12), and will likely end this lost season with the second pick in the NFL Draft. 

So, what then? Do they deal the pick? Or do they spend it on Chase Young and fill the essential role of edge rusher. 

If you look around the league, the best teams tend to have rabid pass rushers. Indeed, seven of the top-ten individual sack leaders play for teams - Packers, Rams, Vikings, Saints, Steelers, 49ers - that are serious playoff contenders. And seven of the ten teams with the most sacks - Steelers, 49ers, Rams, Saints, Patriots, Bills, Vikings - are also charging hard toward January. 

Ohio State defensive end Chase Young celebrates after the Buckeyes defeated the Wisconsin Badgers 34-21 in the 2019 Big Ten Championship Game at Lucas Oil Stadium on December 7, 2019.
USA TODAY Images

And these are hardly anonymous players. Aaron Donald, Nick Bosa, TJ Watt, Danielle Hunter, and Cameron Jordan are routinely featured on highlight reels, have their mail forwarded to the pocket, and double the Rolaids intake for opposing coaches. With the passing orgy that has become NFL offense, where sneezing on the wideout gets you flagged for 15 yards, crashing into the QB's personal space as quickly as possible is the best possible outcome. 

Mark Schlereth, who has three Super Bowl rings as an offensive lineman, has said all year that the offensive line play has decayed ever since the last CBA. With way less practice time in pads and with physical pounding, it's become almost impossible for centers, guards, and tackles to learn their trade. All of this makes the edge rusher more valuable. Indeed, leading the league in sacks is almost as valuable and glamorous as leading the league in touchdowns. 

Right now, the Giants have one player in the NFL's top-40 in sacks: Markus Golden, with 8.5. They are 24th overall as a team, with just 29 sacks on the season. (The Steelers have 48, by contrast.) Which, sadly, means Golden has about 30% of the team's total. That’s why CBSSports.com, SI.com, and Sporting News all have the Giants nabbing Young with their first pick, and ESPN's Todd McShay has Young as the best player in college coming out for the pros. 

But sacks aren't just a glamour stat. A sack speaks to pressure on the quarterback, which makes him throw the ball poorly or before he wants to. It leads to famously happy feet in the pocket, and is the secondary's best friend, as they gobble up all those errant passes and rack up the turnovers. 

Enter Young, the Ohio State sack machine who should be available at the second slot in the draft. Despite missing two games because of a suspension, Young has posted 16.5 sacks, three passes defended and six forced fumbles. He's the next star in the glittering lineage that produced Nick and Joey Bosa, both of whom are wrecking NFL offenses as if they're still in the Big 10. 

The Giants may consider dealing the pick and stacking draft equity, but teams routinely devour edge rushers in the top-ten because the impact they have on the game is invaluable. So many of the best rushers over the last 35 years - such as Lawrence Taylor, Bruce Smith, Reggie White, Michael Strahan, Richard Dent and DeMarcus Ware - have played in or won Super Bowls because their football footprint is so profound. 

Eli Manning got the MVP hardware while winning two Super Bowls, but we all know that Big Blue's defensive line was at least as valuable, pounding Tom Brady for four quarters each time, and leaving the GOAT two rings short. 

If the Giants pass on Young, they better pray he doesn't lay waste to NFL offensive lines. Pass rushers are no longer fringe players or part-time specialists. They have become building blocks on bruising defenses. The Giants have had two transcendent pass rushers over the years - Taylor and Strahan - so it's not a coincidence that they won Lombardi Trophies with both. 

Maybe the league has lathered quarterbacks in symbolic bubble wrap, making it harder than ever to tackle them without hurting their feelings and getting flagged. But the great pass rushers have an innate sense of timing and touch. And the Giants need someone on defense who can remind fans of the halcyon years, when they were flush from LB to DE. The Giants have made a point of getting younger, now it's time to get Young. 

You can follow Jason on Twitter: @JasonKeidel

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