The New York Giants overhauled their front office to go along with their linebacking corps in 2018, and my oh my was it a needed change.
The linebackers for the Giants have been putrid the past couple of seasons, and I want to take a look at how different the middle of the defense is going to look in 2018.
The Old Linebackers:
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In 2017, the Giants’ defense was one of the worst in the league. With Jonathan Casillas the MIC linebacker and Keenan Robinson expected to handle coverage duties, the Giants seemed to be ‘okay’ going into the season. That idea changed quickly as Casillas battled injuries and eventually landed on IR, and Robinson, as usual, played in only six games.
In addition to those two players, San Diego State rookie Calvin Munson tried to pick up the slack left behind by Casillas. He showed heart, but not enough quality to prove to anybody he deserves to be a starting player.
Kelvin Sheppard was brought in later in the year to fill the inside linebacker position, where he showed promise against the run. Ultimately, his lone skill wasn’t enough to ‘wow’ any fans or coaches. Second-year man B.J. Goodson flashed serious potential in his first start against the Dallas Cowboys, racking up 18 total tackles. Unfortunately, injuries derailed his season and saw him feature in only seven games.
A lack of durability and skill contributed to a #26 ranked rush defense in 2017, and 19th ranked pass-defense. Overall, the Giants’ defense ranked 31st in the league.
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The New Linebackers:
The Giants spent a few dollars this offseason to inject an influx of talent to the linebacker corps. General manager Dave Gettleman traded for athletic and physical linebacker Alec Ogletree. He also went after Kareem Martin, a former player for defensive coordinator James Bettcher.
Martin is a massive defender (6-foot-6, 272-pounds) who wasn’t considered an all-around starting linebacker for the Cardinals. The Giants signed him to a three-year, $15 million contract, only second to Ogletree’s $10 million per-year deal.
The fact the @Giants upgraded the linebacker corps with Ogletree AND Martin shows a clear intent towards strengthening the run defense.@Giants ranked 26th in run defense last season. Expect to see a drastic improvement.#nyg #giants #giantschat #giantsnation #nygiants
— It’s Shurmuring In Here (@AlexxxWilsonnn) April 6, 2018
Allocating $5 million per-year to a huge linebacker that can aid in the run defense and plug holes is a nice grab, especially with his familiarity with Bettcher’s system.
James Bettcher states recently that they will dabble with the idea of a hybrid style defense; styling a 3-4 and 4-3 defense. Utilizing both of these schemes with the appropriate personnel raises several questions, one of which is: Who will act as the coverage linebacker?
I think the Giants can utilize Landon Collins as a cover linebacker of sorts while Ogletree and Martin rush the passer from a standing position. The talent added to the roster will not only help the team, but it will also aid the surrounding players in elevating their game.
Big Blue also managed to grab Lorenzo Carter in the third round of the draft — an absolute steal that has the added athleticism to play defensive edge. His dynamic style of play will provide even more depth and talent for Bettcher to work with. Keeping the opposing offense guessing will be a staple of the Giants’ game-plan going forward.
Giants’ defense end Olivier Vernon will also be standing up to play outside linebacker in the 3-4 system DC James Bettcher runs. This will add yet another physical, run stopping linebacker for the Giants in specific scenarios.