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Justin Tuck never did it during his great career as Tom Brady’s nemesis.

Olivier Vernon, Michael Bennett and Gerald McCoy are Pro Bowlers, but they’ve never done it, either.

Reaching 12.5 sacks in a single season is no easy task, but the Giants have a new player who once tasted the rarefied air.

Tuck retired at No. 6 in Giants’ history with 60.5 of his 66.5 career sacks for the franchise which drafted him, and Vernon, Bennett and McCoy all can continue climbing above the career 50-sack plateau around the NFL in 2019.

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The New York Giants are a young team, but there is more room for some players to step forward than others.

Markus Golden’s resume isn’t in the same ballpark, but two numbers jump off his stat page from his first four NFL seasons with the Cardinals: 12.5 sacks in 2016 and 2.5 sacks in 15 games since then.

“Markus, unfortunately somewhere around 18ish months ago, had a pretty significant knee injury,” said Giants defensive coordinator James Bettcher, who coached Golden in Arizona.

“Don’t ever forget that before that he was one of the best pass rushers in this league. People had to plan for him. I know that because I was one of the guys calling the plays for him on defense."

Double-digit sacks is considered an important threshold for pass-rushers, but 12.5 seems to be a true gateway to the upper echelon. For example:

  • In 2018, 22 players had at least 10 sacks but only 13 reached 12.5.
  • In 2017, 18 players had at least 10 sacks but only 7 reached 12.5.
  • In 2016 and 2015 alike, 16 players had at least 10 sacks but only 5 reached 12.5

So, which version of Golden are the Giants getting? Pre-injury or post-injury?

“I love how he is moving right now, and I love his work,” Bettcher said. “He is a guy that is going to play exceptionally hard. I sat here a year ago and talked about one of the identifying qualities we needed our defense to look like: Work relentless and play relentless. I think that is probably the epitome of Markus."

Since sacks became an official NFL statistic in 1982, the Giants — known above all else for applying pressure to opposing quarterbacks — only have had five players reach 12.5 sacks: Michael Strahan (four times), Lawrence Taylor (four), Jason Pierre-Paul (two), Osi Umenyiora (two) and Leonard Marshall (one).

When the Giants take the practice field Monday morning for their first of 10 Organized Team Activities, Golden will be trying to join that esteemed group and earn a long-term contract after signing a one-year, $3.75 million contract. He can play on the edge in the 3-4 scheme or on the line of scrimmage in a 3-4 sub package.

“He’s a double-digit sack guy,” outside linebackers coach Mike Dawson said. “Once you guys watch him train ... and you go back and watch his pre-injury film, (it’s) just the way he’s all over the field in the run game and the pass game.

“When the ball is down the field, he’s back-side chasing that thing like a madman. That intensity and that level of effort he plays with is going to lead to production with him.”

Giants general manager Dave Gettleman identified a need for defensive playmakers as his team’s No. 1 offseason need. Then, after the Giants finished tied for the second-fewest sacks in the NFL last season, he traded Vernon to the Browns and signed Golden as the premier pass-rush addition.

In a way, the bet placed on Golden is a microcosm of the risk Gettleman took by making over an underachieving defense with multiple younger, less proven options.

Vernon had 22 sacks in three years with the Giants but failed to live up to his five-year, $85 million contract. He also missed nine games over the last two seasons with leg injuries less severe than Golden’s.

Golden had zero sacks in four games before Cardinals teammate Budda Baker fell on his right leg while chasing 49ers quarterback Brian Hoyer on Oct. 1, 2017. He had 2.5 sacks last season, as he was slow to regain form in spite of efforts to accelerate recovery that reportedly included signing up for Lifetime Fitness to squeeze in extra running and lifting.

“There’s always that kind of in the back of your mind, am I ready to go? Is this going to happen again?” Dawson said.

“To be able to put that behind him, get a full year under his belt ... and just go and do his thing that’s made him such a good player — which is go and attack the ball and be able to get after the quarterback — I think is going to be a lot of fun to watch.”

Ryan Dunleavy may be reached at i">>[email protected]. Follow him on Twitter i">>@rydunleavy. Find i">>our Giants coverage on Facebook.

Source : https://www.nj.com/giants/2019/05/giants-markus-golden-once-lived-in-rarefied-air-putting-125-sack-season-in-context-for-dave-gettlemans-big-bet.html

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