There are some who will say that Olivier Vernon has yet to live up to the $85-million free-agent contract he signed to join the Giants during the offseason.
Olivier Vernon is one of them.
The defensive end said Thursday that he is “obviously not” satisfied with his performance and production through the first seven games. Asked why, he answered bluntly:
“Well, I didn’t really do anything.”
Statistically, it’s hard to argue with him. He has only 18 total tackles and one sack and has yet to control a game the way the Giants thought he could when they lured him here to improve their last-place pass rush. In terms of sacks, the Giants still are at the bottom.
But Vernon said he thinks there still is time to prove his worth, to live up to his hefty contract and to salvage his season.
“My confidence is the same as it was coming into the season,” he said. “It’s pretty high. I’ll be all right.”
One reason for the optimism is the way the bye week allowed his injured wrist to heal. Vernon hurt it in the opener against the Cowboys and has been hampered by it ever since. He’s worn bulky braces and wraps on it, switched sides of the defensive line to better accommodate his limitations, and even was limited in a few practices earlier in the season. This week, though, he’s not listed on the injury report.
“I’m getting there,” he said of his recovery. “We’ll see.”
The Giants want to see the player in whom they invested so much — the one who was such a disruptive force in Miami.
“Obviously, we thought that he was a pretty premier football player, and he has been that at times,” defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo said Thursday. “But I do know that the hand has affected him. I think we all know that.”
Coach Ben McAdoo and general manager Jerry Reese gave a similar reason for Vernon’s numbers when speaking earlier in the week. There’s only so much he can do playing one-handed.
“I would like him to be 100 percent,” Spagnuolo said, “but I am not so sure it is there right now.”
Probably not, but he’s close.
“I feel good,” Vernon said of returning from the bye and a week without having to bang his injured limb against teammates in practices and opposing players in a game. “Just refresh, hit the reset button and start back over again. I think everybody needed to heal up a little bit, especially with the stretch of the second half of the season. Everybody’s coming back and feeling better.”
Vernon’s numbers may be minuscule, but he has made plays. Opposing teams are good for about one holding penalty against him each week, which is almost as good as a sack with a loss of 10 yards (but no loss of down). He’s been around the pocket, too, leading the team with seven quarterback hits (that was his rap in Miami, a player who could get to the quarterback but not register the sacks). And he is coming off his most active game as a Giant; he had five tackles and even forced a fumble against the Rams. The ball was picked up by quarterback Case Keenum, negating a strip-sack, but Vernon was there.
Still, he needs to deliver more. He knows he needs to deliver more.
“I have to get back to my game,” he said. “Get back healthy and play football. I haven’t been playing my game. I have to get back to my game and play football.”
That’s what the Giants pay him to do — and what everyone is waiting for.