The New York Giants welcomed defensive end Olivier Vernon with open arms and a cool five-year, $85 million deal during the 2016 offseason. The $52.5 million in guaranteed money was more than what even superstar J.J. Watt was receiving, which just showed how focused the Giants were on improving their pass rush heading into the season.
The deal was a monster, and through the first seven or so games of the 2016 season, it was hard to argue that Vernon was worth the price. Fortunately, the Giants’ new defensive end is finally beginning to prove that he’s worth the money, specifically over the past four games.
It almost goes without saying that the 26-year-old pass rusher is coming into his own. He’s tallied 4.5 sacks over his previous four games, all of which were wins for the Giants. To top it off, he managed five quarterback hits during the team’s 27-13 victory over the Cleveland Browns Sunday. New York’s defense as a whole has been rolling right along as of late and hasn’t allowed more than 23 points in any game during their six-game winning streak.
As a unit, the Giants are slowly climbing the rankings on the defensive side of the ball. Specifically, they’ve tallied 25 sacks on the year, ranking them tied for No. 13. Vernon has obviously played a big role in that and is continuing to grow as a rusher and more specifically, as a talented player for the Giants defense. He totaled 10 combined tackles in a win against the Cincinnati Bengals. He has 45 tackles on the year, putting him on pace for his best statistical season in that category.
For those concerned that the Giants aren’t getting their money’s worth in Vernon, he’s slowly putting those concerns to bed and is proving to be a reliable player who’s on the verge of pushing that elite pass-rusher status. Plus, who’s going to complain about an 8-3 record with a playoff spot for the taking?
The number that may be the most impressive for Giants fans is how many snaps Vernon has been able to play. Aside from Jason Pierre-Paul, Vernon has the most defensive snaps on the D-Line for the Giants this year. JPP has tallied 95.1 percent of the snaps, while Vernon is a close second with 92.2 percent, according to Football Outsiders. With a duo like that capable of making big plays while also playing a heavy number of snaps, it bodes well for the rest of the defense as a whole.
The real testing ground for the Giants is what lies ahead, though. While the six-game winning streak is nice, the final five games of the season for New York are pretty brutal ones. The Pittsburgh Steelers, Dallas Cowboys, Detroit Lions, Philadelphia Eagles and Washington Redskins are all solid teams, and at least four of those five are still pushing for either playoff spots or playoff position. The other is Philadelphia, which is a road game in prime time, and should be a serious test for the Giants.
Vernon’s proving that he’s worth the money, but this final five-game run for the Giants may be when they wind up needing him to step up and lead the way the most.