When the New York Giants took the field against the Houston Texans Sunday, they were without their best edge defender in outside linebacker Olivier Vernon. The Giants needed a boost in their performance on the edges of the defense and Kerry Wynn provided just that in Vernon’s absence.
Wynn, an undrafted free agent coming out of the University of Richmond in 2014, is in his fourth season with the Giants. The 6-foot-5, 263-pound defensive end always plays even bigger than his size. He has always excelled against the run and that continued Sunday against the Texans.
Wynn finished the day with five total tackles and a forced fumble. He penetrated the offensive line consistently and set the edge against the running backs. This forced the Texans to try running up the middle but there was no room for them to gain yards effectively. The Texans, who led the NFL in rushing coming into Week 3, finished with just 59 rushing yards in the 27-22 Giants win. The Texans’ running backs only accounted 23 yards overall.
“This defense is a very attacking defense,” Wynn said during Monday’s conference call. “It’s very aggressive and D-lineman love that. Me, personally, I try to make sure I’m always around the ball. When you’re around the ball, good things tend to happen. Just running around and making stuff happen. I’m having fun with the defense. I love it so far.”
The Giants schemed a little bit differently without Vernon. They mixed in more 4-3 defensive fronts which helps Wynn do what he does best. He can play the 3-4 defensive end spot, but he does his best work as a 4-3 defensive end. He can avoid double-team blocks and play one-on-one with offensive tackles for the majority of the game.
Wynn has never brought much to the table as a pass rusher, but he helped keep the Texans’ offense in passing situations by helping shut down the run game. This led to his defensive teammates getting opportunities to be physical with the elusive Deshaun Watson. The Giants sacked Watson three times and hit him another 11.
“I thought Kerry was outstanding,” head coach Pat Shurmur said during Monday’s conference call. “He had five tackles, he had one special teams tackle, he had two assists, he forced a fumble, he had a pass breakup, one quarterback hit, and one quarterback pressure.
“That’s a pretty darn good day at the office as well. Kerry is long, he’s kind of a relentless player, he’s tough, he’s all the things you’re looking for—he’s tough he cares, he works, and he finds a way to make plays. That certainly was an outstanding performance on his part.”
Replacing an impact player like Olivier Vernon is a team effort. It took adjusting the scheme with the coaching staff and players rising up in his absence. Kerry Wynn was an important ingredient in that formula on Sunday.
– Christian Morell is a Contributor for Full Press Coverage and covers the NFL and the New York Giants. Please like and follow on Facebook and Twitter. Christian can be followed on Twitter @CMorellNFL.