The names don't exactly pop. Kyler Fackrell. Lorenzo Carter. Oshane Ximines. Chris Peace. Cam Brown. Carter Coughlin. A trio of third-round picks, two seventh-round rookies and an undrafted free agent plucked off waivers last summer. As currently constituted, these are the New York Giants' edge rushers.
It's a position where they lack name recognition and upper-echelon talent. One can argue it's the league's most lackluster group of edge rushers.
The Giants might still add reinforcements -- no, not Jadeveon Clowney. That is not happening. But they're optimistic after using the rare "May 5" tender on Markus Golden, who led the team with 10 sacks last season. If Golden doesn't sign with another team by the start of training camp, he would return at 110% of last year's salary. There seems to be some optimism from Golden's side that an offer could arise over the next six weeks, but the Giants view each passing day as a sign that their most accomplished pass-rusher from 2019 will be back.
Regardless, once players get back on the field, the dominoes (Clowney, Golden, Everson Griffen, Vinny Curry and Cameron Wake) will start falling, and it's likely at least one will land with the Giants.
However, if they don't make a move, defensive coordinator Patrick Graham will have to make do with the group of relative unknowns on the roster. The Giants will be looking to scheme pressure instead of relying on a No. 1 pass-rusher.
"You know part of it's going to be scheme. I've got a lot of confidence in Graham and [coach] Joe [Judge] and the defensive guys," Giants general manager Dave Gettleman said after the draft. "We're going to be fine. It'll get better. No, we didn't draft what you guys would call a blue-goose pass-rusher, but a lot of the time it's a group effort. It's not about who gets the sacks, it's about the number of sacks and the number of pressures."
Even if Golden returns, the Giants will be lacking the kind of pass-rusher who demands double teams on every snap. A personnel executive and defensive coach both recently described Golden to ESPN as a quality No. 2. The rest were viewed as "solid, capable players in depth-level roles."
It doesn't make success impossible -- there have been good defensive teams in recent years without top edge rushers. They're just more the exception than the norm.
Of the 15 teams with the top successful defensive play rates over the past three years, only four were without a pass-rusher (edge or interior) who finished among the top 20 in disruptions. Those teams were the 2019 New England Patriots and New York Jets and the 2017 Philadelphia Eagles and Seattle Seahawks. The '17 Eagles won the Super Bowl but had defensive tackle Fletcher Cox and defensive end Brandon Graham, 31st and 37th in pressures, respectively.
Judge saw first-hand with the Patriots last season how succeeding by committee would look. New England had the league's best defense, despite Kyle Van Noy leading the team with 35 pressures, tied for 22nd in the NFL.
Van Noy is by no means a dominant pass-rusher. He hasn't been at any point in his career, and New England didn't have another player last season among the top 60 in pressures. The Patriots also had only one All-Pro player from the league's best defense, cornerback Stephon Gilmore. They did it by committee, much like the Giants will have to do this season. Judge's current defense has only one player (defensive lineman Leonard Williams) who has ever made the Pro Bowl.
The '19 Patriots at least give Judge some hope to make the best of a non-optimal situation with the Giants this season. He'll have his work cut out for him even if Golden, who finished 17th in the NFL last season with 39 pressures, returns.
"Everybody really wants an elite guy. I think that is a true statement. No one's going to turn down a good football player," Judge said this offseason. "But you have to find ways -- if you don't have necessarily that one elite guy -- of getting production out of maybe two or three other players that complement each other."
The pressure will be on Carter and Ximines. They each had 4.5 sacks last season but with pedestrian 10.5% and 10.4% disruption rates, according to NFL Next Gen Stats. The Giants need at least one of them to have a breakout season for their defense to succeed, and at least one coach believes this will be Carter's season.
The Giants also need Williams (61st, 57th and 28th in pressures over the past three years, respectively) or Dexter Lawrence (121st as a rookie) to take his game to the next level.
The '17 Eagles had Vinny Curry, Cox, Derek Barnett, Chris Long and Graham with disruption rates well over 12%. The '17 Seahawks had Sheldon Richardson and Michael Bennett at 13.5% and 12.9%, respectively.
Williams led the Giants last season at 12.2%. Lawrence (5.8%), Dalvin Tomlinson (8.4%) and B.J. Hill (5.2%) barely registered. Fackrell provides some promise. He had an 18.1% disruption rate last season with Green Bay in a reduced role.
The Patriots were tied for fifth in disruption rate (32.3%) and sixth in sack percentage (8.1%) without an elite pass-rusher. That is the blueprint the Giants will likely have to follow.
Only it's easier said than done to replicate what perhaps the greatest coach and greatest dynasty in NFL history accomplished in a year when they lacked that elite pass-rusher.