The start to Giants training camp has been largely focused on the offense. Between the Eli Manning-Daniel Jones saga, the human highlight reel that is Saquon Barkley, and the multitude of injuries to the team's receiving corps, there are enough storylines there to keep the spotlight on that side of the ball.
However, the team's biggest training camp star plays defense. Second-year linebacker Lorenzo Carter entered the season with massive expectations on a team desperate for a pass rush, and his play has caught the eye of his peers and his coaches.
On the first day of camp, Carter blew up consecutive plays, first tackling Golden Tate behind the line of scrimmage on a reverse play, and then crashing the hole hard on a blitz before intercepting a screen pass intended for Barkley. Carter returned the interception for a touchdown, and although his teammates were quick to praise him, Carter was his typical humble self when asked about his big play.
"It was a play,'' Carter said. "I don't think it was anything too crazy, honestly. I could have caught it cleaner. I'm being picky.''
Barkley and head coach Pat Shurmur respectfully disagreed.
"That was a heck of a play," Barkley said. "It was a zero blitz, he was responsible for the running back and I kind of tried to sneak him and dip outside him on the screen. He did a great job of playing it and then made an unbelievable play."
"That was a terrific play," Shurmur said. "As a head coach, that's what you like to see. As an offensive coach, you don't want those kinds of things to happen. But when a guy makes a great individual effort like that, that was awesome. Hopefully we'll see more of that.''
The Giants' offense has a lot of question marks, but the team will not make the playoffs unless the defense improves. Despite only combining for 30 sacks last year, the second-lowest total in the league, general manager Dave Gettleman didn't do much to address the pass rush in the draft or through free agency. That puts an even greater emphasis on internal improvement, and Carter's stellar training camp thus far is a good sign.
No Giant has reached 10 sacks in a season since Jason Pierre-Paul in 2014 (when he had 12.5), but Carter is looking to change that. He bulked up in the offseason, adding 10 pounds of muscle. Defensive coordinator James Bettcher has also said that Carter is "rushing with a plan" and "building his pass-rush toolbox," suggesting that he has made massive strides in the film room since his rookie season.
Although Carter can be modest sometimes, shrugging off his highlight-reel plays and saying he'd prefer 10 wins over 10 sacks, he isn't shy about wanting to be the next great Giants pass rusher.
"I want to be the guy," Carter said, per the New York Daily News. "I want to be the edge rusher when it's the fourth quarter, two minutes left, 1:30 left, I want to be the guy that they look to or that they see coming around the edge. That's what I came here for. I didn't come here to be less than a superstar on the edge."
The Giants certainly don't have a superstar on the edge right now. Heck, they barely even have two starting pass-rushers. The opportunity for Carter to become the superstar is there for the taking.