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With one week until the Giants kick off their 2021 regular season, players are buttoning up their technique, reviewing the playbook one last time and gearing up for the grind over the next few months.
For OLB Lorenzo Carter, he couldn't be anymore prepared to be back on the field.
Carter is a crucial piece of this Big Blue defensive unit that desperately needs some consistency at outside linebacker to get some disruption off the edge. Like the offensive line, it's been an area that has needed improvement for quite some time now.
To start the 2020 campaign, Carter was giving that pressure with four quarterback hits and one sack over five games. The stat sheet doesn't share the whole story, though, as film showed him getting very close and forcing the ball out early. But an Achilles injury in Week 5 against the Dallas Cowboys ended his season just as he was getting warmed up.
So you can understand why he has a bit of a chip on his shoulder going into this year.
"You got to have that chip on your shoulder. It’s just understanding myself and the player that I am and understanding what I have to do," he said on Thursday after practice. "There’s no expectations, nothing from the outside world. I don’t look into that outside world, but me knowing myself, I know the standards I hold myself to.”
Defensive coordinator Patrick Graham actually said he was going to try not to get emotional when talking about Carter because he's seen the level of effort and determination he's had to get back to where he is today to play on his defense. He added that Carter even looks better than he did before last season, which obviously bodes well for the team.
"I think Coach Graham does a great job of just trusting the players," Carter said. "He doesn’t try to play the game himself. He knows the players are going to have to do what we do to win games and he puts us in a [good] position. I appreciate Coach Graham, everything he’s done. He teaches us the game, he teaches us more than just the X’s and O’s. He teaches us the whole thing and I’ve learned a lot from him.”
Graham is hoping to trust Carter to set the edge when he's in games, and try to put an end to the stigma around Giants edge rushers. Oshane Ximines and rookie Azeez Ojulari are with him there, too.
But Carter is entering year four with New York, meaning his rookie contract is up after this season. So production is even more critical this year.
However, the Georgia product doesn't think about that. He's just ready to help his team win and prove why he believes he feels better than he has in his whole career.
And it's not even on a physical standpoint. He feels like an established veteran now, and that could be the best thing of all.
"Just a faster player as in not in speed. They say the NFL is so much faster than college and different levels of football," he said. "The anticipation, knowing what's going to happen next. Just understanding the game plans and understanding what the opponent is going to do to you."