Markus Golden’s tenure in East Rutherford was not always the smoothest. Signed to a prove-it deal in 2019 after an injury-riddled career with the Cardinals, Golden re-emerged as a dominant edge presence with the Giants under former defensive coordinator James Bettcher. The former second-round pick became the first Giants player since Jason Pierre-Paul in 2014 to record double-digit sacks, posting 10.0 sacks in 2019. Furthermore, he also ranked within the top-15 of the NFL in both tackles for loss and quarterback hits.
Yet, despite clearly “proving it” on his one-year deal in 2019, the organization refused to prioritize the veteran pass-rusher this past offseason. New York slapped the seldomly used-UFA Tender on Golden this past spring, limiting his earnings to “roughly $5.1 million” in 2020.
With a new coaching staff in place, Golden quickly fell out of favor with the Giants. Despite being ravaged by injuries on the edge of their defense, Golden was continuously passed over for snaps by late-round draft picks and waiver wire additions. By the conclusion of Week 7, the G-Men had seen enough, shipping Golden back to his old stomping grounds in Phoenix in exchange for a meager 2021 sixth-round pick.
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Golden Calls Out Giants on Twitter
Following the trade, Golden quickly made his presence felt, both for the Cardinals and against the Giants. The 29-year-old returned to MetLife in Week 14, notching a strip-sack and a 30-yard fumble return in a 26-7 beatdown of the Giants.
Yet, obliterating Daniel Jones in a revenge game victory clearly hasn’t lessened Golden’s disdain for the way things turned out in New York.
Golden continued his stellar play throughout the remainder of 2020. He and teammate Hasson Reddick were just one of two edge-rushing duos league-wide to both record 50-plus pressures, as Pro Football Focus highlighted on Tuesday, via Twitter.
In response to PFF’s tweet, Golden opted to shade his former team and seemingly defensive coordinator Patrick Graham for his lack of playing time.
— Markus Golden (@markusgolden) February 22, 2021
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Does Golden Have a Point?
For our own sanity, let’s simply gloss over the fact that 50% of the list above consists of former Giants players. Instead, let’s shift our focus to Golden’s gripe over playing time.
Does he have a point? Undoubtedly.
In 2019, serving as one of the league’s most prolific pass rushers, Golden started all 16 games with the Giants, playing 82.54% of the team’s defensive snaps (the most among all front-seven players).
Fast forward to 2020, and of the seven games Golden appeared in with Big Blue, he notched just a single start. Additionally, he played a total of 175 defensive snaps (16.06%). Over that span, he exceeded 34% of snaps played in just one game. The year prior, Golden fell below 70% snaps just once over his 16-game slate.
Reminder, Golden’s limited usage also coincided with both starting outside linebackers, Lorenzo Carter and Oshane Ximines landing on injured reserve.
Still, despite a reduction in snaps, Golden made his presence felt when he could, recording 1.5 sacks, two tackles for loss and six QB Hits during his limited run with New York this past season. The latter number still managed to slot Golden in as the team’s second-leading linebacker in said category for the year.
With that said, despite no true edge presence, Patrick Graham’s schematics and the emergence of Leonard Williams allowed the Giants to continuously put pressure on opponents. Their 107 QB Hits this past year ranked seventh-most amongst all 32 NFL teams.
As for Golden, the impending free agent started eight of his nine games with the Cards in 2020, collecting 3.0 sacks and 14.0 QB Hits. In return, the move to Arizona likely strengthened his chances of earning a more favorable deal on the open market this season. Yet, one thing is for certain, that deal won’t be coming from the Giants.
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