New York Giants defensive end Olivier Vernon might not have been at the team’s OTAs, instead choosing to spend the last three weeks training in his hometown of Miami, but his teammates were never far from his thoughts.
The 26-year-old Vernon, entering his second season with the team, put himself through a rigorous training program to ensure that the legendary stamina he showed last year during the dog days of summer would continue.
“Doing the same thing I’ve been doing every year: just trying to get better,” he said when asked what he had been doing. “I know these guys were grinding out here, so I was trying to grind the same way.”
Last season, Vernon and Jason Pierre-Paul, his bookend at defensive end, combined to register 15.5 sacks despite Pierre-Paul’s season being cut short by injury by four games.
Still, that total by just two men alone was more than half of what the Giants pass rush combined registered the year prior (23.5 sacks), making the investment in Vernon to be well worth the money.
This year, the Giants are hoping the production by Vernon and Pierre-Paul is even better. They re-signed Pierre-Paul, who had only made it through one 16-game season in the last four years, to a new mega deal this offseason, a move that Vernon said made him “just as happy” as Pierre-Paul.
“We had a great run, and we both played good on the field and I’m happy that he’s still here,” Vernon said. “I kept telling him before the season, that he wasn’t going to go anywhere, so it came to fruition.”
As for Vernon, who last year was hampered by a broken left hand, there was little doubt that his injury affected him shortly after it first happened early in the year.
Vernon registered just one sack in his first seven games before the Giants’ bye week. The break seemed to help him as when the team returned from the bye, Vernon went on a tear, recording at least a half sack in six of his next seven games, including two straight games with multiple sacks.
“I started feeling better towards the end of the season but that’s football at the end of the day. You’re going to get banged up, so you just got to keep going and fight through,” he said.
“The main thing is staying healthy,” he said of the coming season. “Just trying to stay healthy, being out there on the field with my teammates. We’ll just go from there.”
Vernon, who said he’s always trained on his own during the offseason OTAs—last year was an exception likely due to him being new to the team—stayed in touch via text message with defensive line coach Patrick Graham to make sure he was getting as much information as possible on any new wrinkles the team was installing.
Although it’s still early, Vernon likes where the team is heading after adding new talent on offense while also managing to retain most of the defense from last year, save for defensive tackle Johnathan Hankins.
“When you’re trying to build something, you want to keep everybody together for the most part,” he said of the chance for the defense to establish continuity this year.
“We got a lot of guys right now that saw what we could do last year. Right now, it’s all new and fresh. Everything that we did last year, is on the back burner now. It’s a whole new grind. Everybody has to prove themselves once again.”
He also said he sees an increase in the number of guys being vocal and showing leadership.
“We got a lot of potential, but once again, you still got to prove yourself when you get on the field. I feel like this team is ready to prove themselves,” he said.