Lorenzo Carter spent Thursday night facing the biggest snowfall he’d ever seen. In his home state of Georgia, he said, “an inch of snow . . . you’re out of school for a week.” Instead, the Giants linebacker adapted. He got in his car, navigated the tricky terrain and made the 15-minute drive home in four hours. Then he built a snowman.
The past few weeks have shown that Carter, a third-round pick in the 2018 draft, generally is able to handle whatever challenges this new life has presented. Granted, the team has been patient with him in an attempt to avoid overloading an athlete who’s never played an NFL season and has plenty to learn. As Carter continues to be given greater responsibility and thrive, there is every indication that the training wheels are off.
“Lorenzo had his best game [against the 49ers on Monday] and I think we need to build on that,” coach Pat Shurmur said. “It’s always good to see. You know, rookies get better at a faster pace sometimes than veterans because it’s new for them and they’re doing it for the seventh or eighth time and I thought he had a good game and we’ve just got to keep building on it.”
Carter had seven tackles in that game, a team-high three for a loss. He has two sacks and is among the best edge rushers in his rookie class. As his pass coverage improves, the Giants have grown more comfortable with his expanded role, linebackers coach Bill McGovern said.
“We’ll see,” McGovern said when asked if Carter will be expected to do even more in the final weeks. “We’ve been trying to increase it as it progresses and see how much he can handle, but he’s handling more and more, and the more he shows he can handle, we’ll try to give him more and more work.
“You don’t want to overload a young guy and put too much on him. He’s also playing special teams and the NFL season is obviously longer than the college season, so you’re just trying to give him a good foundation for which to build off of.”
Carter said he’s comfortable with what the team is trying to do, and there’s every indication that the game, even at this level, is becoming second nature.
“I think it’s just playing confident, playing fast, just not thinking, just coming out and playing football,’’ he said, “listening to the guys, [Olivier Vernon] giving me great tips, Connor [Barwin] giving me great tips, and just trying to use what they say and take it out on the field.”
Carter and the Giants will take on a high-powered offense when they host the Buccaneers on Sunday. Tampa Bay leads the league in total offense and passing yards. Add to that facing former Giants defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul, who Giants special teams coach Thomas McGaughey said is similar to Carter. The process may be slow going, but the Giants hope that with enough fostering, they can have that type of Pro Bowl-caliber talent on their hands.
“Lorenzo is one of our top tacklers,” McGaughey said. “He’s 6-5, 250 pounds and he runs 4.4. He’s a big, talented guy. How many of those do you want? I want 11 of them. He’s a good young player and he’s coming along. I foresee him graduating here pretty quick. His special-teams reps will probably go down a little bit moving forward, but he’s a very special player. Kind of reminds me of JPP a little bit.”