Only Scratching the Surface: Olivier Vernon

By Adam Nardelli: Featured Columnist

Odell Beckham Jr skipping OTAs.  Jerry Reese signing Brandon Marshall. Ereck Flowers losing weight.  Evan Engram selected as the Giants first-round pick.  These have been the main storylines from the Giants offseason.

Much like his demeanor, the expectations for Olivier Vernon in 2017 have laid low. However, I’m bringing them to the forefront.

Vernon (26 years old), the second-highest paid player on the Giants, had a very solid debut season with the Giants in 2016.  His 8.5 sacks and 63 tackles were a major factor in transforming the defense into one of the league’s best last season.  To top those numbers off, Vernon was second in the league with 86 pressures, tied for the league lead with 17 tackles for loss.  These numbers show Vernon’s versatility as a pass rusher and a run defender.

But I think this is just scratching the surface for where Vernon can go.

For almost half the season, Vernon was playing with a hand/wrist injury that occurred week 1 in Dallas  He only had one sack in the first seven games, but once his hand started to feel better, you could see the type of impact Vernon can make.

OV finished the season off strong with 7.5 sacks in the last nine games.  His hand injury also didn’t seem to affect his ability to stop the run later in the season, as was especially evident on a Monday night against the Bengals where he racked up 10 tackles.

Nothing suggests to me that Vernon shouldn’t pick up where he left off when the Giants open the season in Dallas.  With his hand fully healed and with the defense mostly remaining in-tact, Vernon has the potential to get noticed alongside Von Miller and Khalil Mack as one of the NFL’s best defensive ends.

In fact, Olivier Vernon was the most productive edge rusher from the right side in 2016, according to Pro Football Focus.  The pass rush productivity stat is a “rating that measures pressure created on a per snap basis with weight toward sacks”, per USA Today.  No matter what you think about PFF, it’s obvious  Olivier Vernon was one of the most disruptive defensive ends in 2016.

Olivier Vernon deserves much more praise, more hype and attention heading into the 2017.  Or sleep on him…see what happens. The buzz for Odell, Marshall, Engram and Shepard is there, and rightfully so…but let’s not forget about the quiet assassin.

OV’s best moments from last season may have gotten overshadowed by Beckham’s touchdown catches.  If you need a refresher, take a look at Vernon’s highlights from his 10 tackle game against Cincinnati.