Don’t get it twisted, the New York Giants will live or die not just as a defense but as a team based on how the spine of their team plays. And according to defensive coordinator James Bettcher, that spine has the potential to be All-Pros this year.
If that happens, then watch out, NFC East.
The Giants will rely on three players to carry a defense that, while revamped, lost some star power this offseason. Gone are the likes of defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul and cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, mainstays on the defense who had heralded defensive careers for several seasons with this organization.
Now, the defense belongs to nose tackle Damon Harrison, linebacker Alec Ogletree and safety Landon Collins. Bettcher is more than alright with that when asked about that trio last week during minicamp, heaping praise on Harrison, now in his third year with the Giants and set for his seventh season in the NFL.
“You just said three Pro Bowl players that are potential All-Pros that I think all three of those guys can still play at the highest levels of their careers. Shoot, that’s one of the reasons you want to run this defense and have a chance to coach this defense, is the first and last guy you said when you looked at who was here, and guys that are playmakers,” Bettcher said.
“Snacks [Harrison] being a guy that can win – we went and looked initially, all the one-on-ones that he had in the run game, and there wasn’t anyone that blocked him one-on-one in the run game. And I think what he’ll find and what we’ll find is we’ll be able to get him some one-on-ones. Whether that’s matched up on a center, on a guard, we’ll be able to get him some one-on-ones in the run game. Ogletree is the least known quality to most Giants fans, signed this offseason.”
Taken late in the first round of the 2013 NFL Draft, the 26-year old Ogletree has spent the entirety of his career with the Rams (whether in St. Louis or Los Angeles). Three times in his career, he had triple-digit tackles in a season. Last year he had 95 tackles, two sacks, one fumble recovery and one interception.
“And Alec has done an outstanding job. He’s growing into the leadership role of this defense,” Bettcher said. “And you know, that always happens over time, especially when you’re putting a new system in because everyone’s really worried about their wheelhouse, their box, their responsibility and all that other stuff comes when we get to training camp and we start playing for real.”