Linemen excited about Giants switch to 3-4 defensive scheme
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) — Damon Harrison isn’t a big fan of change, so it might be a little surprising the massive defensive tackle is enjoying playing in the New York Giants’ new 3-4 scheme.
Harrison is having fun playing in the middle of the line flanked by second-year pro Dalvin Tomlinson and third-round draft pick B.J. Hill.
While there are fewer linemen in the formation, players say the defense is much more aggressive than the old 4-3 scheme. The linemen have gone from playing a two-gap responsibility to attacking one-gap.
“It just takes me back to my first years in the league,” the 29-year-old Harrison said Wednesday before practice. “It’s kind of like a Rex Ryan-type defense. It’s a lot of attacking, it’s not sitting around waiting, trying to read and see the other guys on the offense are doing - it’s playing defense with an offensive mentality.”
In the formation, Harrison tends to shade on either side of the center, while Tomlinson and Hill pick a gap between the guard and tackle.
What also makes James Bettcher’s defense interesting is the linemen also can rotate, so are not going up against the same opponent each play.
When the linebackers and defensive backs join the rush, it adds to the confusion.
While the Giants (3-13) struggled last season, Harrison was again outstanding. He has started every game for five straights seasons, including the last two with the Giants. He finished with 76 tackles, second on the team, and he is clearly one of the leaders on defense, even though he shies away from calling himself a leader.
Besides learning a new defense, Harrison said he is learning about a new coaching staff and a lot of new players, led by linebackers Kareem Martin, Alec Ogletree and Connor Barwin along with Hill and veteran tackle A.J. Francis.
“It’s a few holdovers, but other than that, it’s new faces,” said Harrison, who is entering his seventh season after starting with the Jets. “Everybody’s trying to learn everybody, to figure out what makes that person tick, what makes them go. It’s kind of refreshing. I told you in the past, I’m not a guy who likes change, so it’s a real difficult time for me.”
Tomlinson, who also started every game last season, said he and Harrison talk about the new defense constantly. They don’t hesitate to point out mistakes to each other.
“It’s different, but it is pretty similar for the most part,” Tomlinson said of the schemes. “For the interior guys, we pretty much have the same job. Stop the run and be aggressive.”
Tomlinson said the linemen can flip-flop positions on any play, depending on what the offense shows and the defensive alignment.
“We try to disguise everything to almost look the same,” Tomlinson said. “When everything looks the same, you don’t know what you are getting from us and what to expect. We can bring someone from anywhere and surprise them every time.”
The new defense also has quick forced Harrison to change his style and his look a bit, a hint he might be dropping weight from his 355-pound frame.
“You go to change the body type to be able to do Coach Bettcher is asking of the defensive line, which is to get up the field and attack, and anybody who knows me and likes me, that’s not something that’s been a strong point in my game,” Harrison said. “I can do it. I like to kind of use it as a change up every now.”
NOTES: The Giants returned to practice after having a day off. ... S Landon Collins intercepted Eli Manning’s pass that seemed to be tipped by linebacker B.J. Goodson in a two-minute drill. ... Third-year pro Kalif Raymond, who had one catch in six games with the Giants last season, has been showing flashes in training camp, including a couple Wednesday.
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