The Giants last week started three rookie draft picks in an opener for the first time since 1997, and they represented the team’s first, second and fourth selections overall: running back Saquon Barkley, guard Will Hernandez and defensive end B.J. Hill.
But their third selection, linebacker Lorenzo Carter, also filled a key role against the Jaguars, playing about half the snaps and sharing with Connor Barwin the job usually done by one of the team’s best players, Olivier Vernon.
On Friday, the spotlight returned to the rookie out of Georgia with the news that Vernon will miss a second game because of an ankle sprain when the Giants visit the Cowboys on Sunday night.
Carter, a third-round pick taken 66th overall, said he is ready, even more so after what he experienced in last week’s 20-15 loss.
“I felt more comfortable toward the end of the game, just getting more reps,” he said after practice. “You just get in a groove of things.”
Coach Pat Shurmur dismissed the notion that Carter will focus mostly on passing downs, saying that he and Barwin both can play any style.
Carter agreed, saying: “I don’t feel like I’m just a third-down guy. I can go out there and play the run, set the edge. I do it all.”
It is up to coordinator James Bettcher to mix and match what he has until Vernon returns, which the Giants hope will be next week.
“When you’re talking about one of the elite pass rushers in the league, do you miss him? Sure, you’d love to have him,” Bettcher said. “You go ask the 31 other [teams] if they want OV, and all 31 will say, ‘Yes.’
“But I do love the makeup of that room. I love Connor Barwin, Kareem Martin and Lorenzo Carter . . . We’re lining them up in different spots, sometimes Connor’s inside, sometimes Kareem’s inside, and we’re moving them around and trying to get them on matchups. They’ve embraced all of it and are working their tails off.”
Linebackers coach Bill McGovern said of Carter: “There’s things obviously he has to improve on. He’s young, he’s still growing, he’s still learning. But he’s working at it and we’re excited about his approach to the game.”
Sixth-year linebacker Alec Ogletree said he is biased in Carter’s favor because he is a fellow Georgia product, then added: “He came in, learned the playbook, just getting his feet wet, learning what to do. With OV being out, he’s one of the guys who has to step up and make plays for us.”
Carter said he is prepared for the challenge that Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott presents for every linebacker.
“Their run game is explosive,” he said. “They have a quarterback [Dak Prescott] who can run, too. We have to stop the run, try to make them pass the ball and beat you in the air.”
The idea is to win now, but the side benefit is playing time that could pay off further down the road.
“Exactly,” Carter said. “I love it. Game-time experience. Nothing can replicate it, nothing can duplicate it.”
Notes & quotes: The Giants’ Ereck Flowers was fined $10,026 by the NFL for kicking in the wake of a tripping penalty in Sunday’s game and the Jaguars’ Yannick Ngakoue was fined the same amount for a facemask penalty on which he twisted Barkley’s helmet sideways . . . Cornerback Janoris Jenkins returned to practice after leaving early Thursday. Shurmur called it “a family issue” and urged reporters to give Jenkins space. Jenkins said he will not be distracted. “Short-term memory,” he said. “In life, things happen. Just got to come back to work and pick up where I left off.” . . . When Vanderbilt -- whose quarterback is Kyle Shurmur, son of the Giants' coach -- plays at Notre Dame on Saturday, the Giants will be flying to Dallas. “I’m going to try to find a way to get some updates,” Shurmur said. “I’m certainly hoping that Vandy does well.” . . . The only player other than Vernon on the Giants’ injury report is linebacker Tae Davis (hamstring), who is questionable.