Giants defensive coordinator says unit will be relentless
By TOM CANAVAN
Apr. 04, 2018
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) — From the time James Bettcher was hired as defensive coordinator by Pat Shurmur, there has been speculation whether the New York Giants were switching from a four-man front to a three-man look.
After all, it's what the 39-year-old Bettcher ran with the Arizona Cardinals last season.
Bettcher dropped a hint Wednesday in his first interview since taking the job: He is not into labeling defensive schemes.
The Giants are going to use a lot of formations, including three- and four-man fronts. Sometimes, they are going to put five up front. They are going to keep offenses guessing, and they are going to attack.
"What it is about is playing relentless," Bettcher said. "The game is about playing hard. The game is about playing physical. The game is about playing smart. Those are things that our guys are going to do whether we are bringing five or six or dropping eight, whatever we are doing, whatever the field position is. The thing our fans are going to see, they are going to see a defense that is going to run around, that plays hard, plays fast and plays smarts and plays physical. That's what playing defense is about."
Bettcher will start laying the foundation for his defense Monday when players show up for organized team activities. The OTAs are a time that most coaches and coordinators begin discovering what they have, especially with a new team.
"Right now, if you asked me who we are on defense, I have no clue," Bettcher said, adding by the end of training camp he will know.
The Giants certainly will have a different look, at least based on personnel.
Defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul was traded to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers last month. Cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie was released and fellow CB Ross Cockrell was signed by Carolina as a free agent. The Giants added Alec Ogletree in a trade with the Rams and signed fellow linebacker Kareem Martin as a free agent. LB Devon Kennard signed with Detroit as a free agent, while defensive captain Jonathan Casillas, also a linebacker, remains a free agent.
The mainstays up front will be tackles Damon Harrison and Dalvin Tomlinson along with end Olivier Vernon. Ogletree and Martin will be the core of the linebackers, and cornerback Janoris Jenkins and safety Landon Collins will anchor the secondary.
"This isn't going to be James Bettcher's defense," Bettcher said. "This is going to be our players' defense, this is going to be these assistant coaches' defense, this is going to be our defense."
The process of putting the defense together will be done over the next five-plus months, and a version of the final product will be rolled out in early September. Bettcher said everyone is starting with a clean slate. There are some who need that.
There was squabbling among the defensive backs last season, and 2016 first-round draft pick Eli Apple miffed some teammates with his attitude and play.
Defensive end Josh Mauro, who played for Bettcher in Arizona before signing with the Giants as a free agent, will sit out the first four games of the regular season for violating the league's policy on performance enhancers.
Bettcher called Apple a very talented player who can do everything expected of a cornerback.
"He's a guy that, I think it's a guy that has expectations for himself and that's the most important thing," Bettcher said.
In his three years as Cardinals defensive coordinator, Bettcher's unit was consistently among the NFL's best in yardage allowed and run defense. Arizona led the league in sacks (48) in 2016, and Chandler Jones had a league-high 17 last season.
"I just love football, I love watching football, I love talking about it, I love being around it," Bettcher said. "I probably tire my wife out very much when we watch football. We're home and it's in-season and it's a Saturday afternoon when we have some time and we have college football in the house and we're watching ball. So it's an exciting time."
And a time to build a defense.
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