INDIANAPOLIS — There are several narratives hovering over the Giants that their main decision-makers, general manager Dave Gettleman and coach Pat Shurmur, wholeheartedly and routinely dismiss. It is with complete agreement, though, that they pinpoint the failings of the pass rush in 2018 as the main reason the season was sabotaged.
“At some point we got to do a better job of finishing games. It’s safe to say we had some close games where if we could have made a play to end the game we would have been talking about a different record.’’
“It’s obviously a very important need. You guys sat and watched us and watched our inability to close out games. We had three games just in the second half of the season, we make stops and we finish the season 7-1. A stop.’’
This consensus is the reason why the Giants using the No. 6 on a defensive lineman capable of chasing and dropping the opposing quarterback cannot be discounted. They managed to get only 30 sacks last season — 30th in the NFL — and might cut their top pass rusher, Olivier Vernon, if they cannot find a team to take his massive contract off their hands. The glaring need for the near future is the next franchise quarterback. With Eli Manning returning for a 16th season, the most glaring immediate need is a pass rusher.
The top two in this draft, Nick Bosa of Ohio State and Josh Allen of Kentucky, figure to be off the board in the first five picks, even if quarterbacks Dwayne Haskins and Kyler Murray are taken that high. The Giants should be in range of a group of defensive linemen/outside linebackers that include Ed Oliver (Houston), Quinnen Williams (Alabama), Clelin Ferrell (Clemson) and Rashan Gary (Michigan).
Oliver, Williams and Gary are disruptive interior linemen. Ferrell is a classic edge rusher who would line up as an outside linebacker in the Giants’ 3-4 defensive front. Oliver in many ways is the most intriguing, possibly the player with the highest upside and perhaps the greatest risk. Consider Oliver the Kyler Murray of defensive linemen, not fitting into the physical profile of the NFL — he’s 6-foot-1 ⁷/₈ and 287 pounds — but an overwhelmingly productive college player.
Gary, who is from Plainfield, N.J., said his goal this week at the NFL combine is to show, “That I’m the best player in this draft, offensively and defensively, period.”
Ferrell, at 6-4 ³/₈ and 264 pounds, could be the best pure pass rusher available to the Giants. Ferrell was part of a fearsome Clemson defense that helped win two of the past three national championships. He has 27 career sacks, including 21 in his final two seasons.
“I just feel my versatility is something that is very important when you talk about my game,’’ Ferrell said. “I can play defensive end, I played some defensive tackle this past season, I’ve also dropped into coverage as an outside linebacker and not just doing those things, I feel I’ve done them at a consistently high level.’’
Ferrell delighted the assembled media. He spoke about his mother, who served in Desert Storm, and his father, who served in Vietnam and died when Clelin was 13. He is the youngest of nine siblings.
“A gift and a curse, I would say,’’ Ferrell said. “Obviously it’s a beautiful thing when you have so many different siblings and you all share something in common. It’s a lot chaos as well, a lot of different personalities, they don’t always mix and jell but at the end of the day it’s all love.’’
Playing a position often high on self-esteem and low on humble traits, Ferrell was not boastful at all when asked if he, like Bradley Chubb and Joey Bosa the past few years, can come into the NFL and make an immediate impact.
“I’m not saying I’m afraid of expectation, but a lot of times it’s not fair to put all these expectations on someone who can be 21, 20, 19, 23 years old, and people think they’re supposed to come in and just change the entire franchise just because they were drafted high,’’ he said.
“I know what type of player I can become. I’m not gonna say I’m gonna come in and tear the league up.’’
Ferrell politely corrected someone who called him “CLEH-linn,’’ stating his first name is pronounced “CLEE-linn.’’ He then went on a colorful explanation of his family history. His father’s name was Clevester. One of his sisters is named Cleta. His oldest brother’s name is Clevester Jr. He had a brother named Clevon.
“I don’t know if this true or not,’’ he said, “but my sister Cleta told me that my dad’s great uncle, his name was Cleophus, and they were considering naming me Cleophus. Thank God they didn’t name me Cleophus. Thank you. That would have been bad.’’
Perhaps, sometime soon, he will be called a New York Giant.