There is still a learning curve for the New York Giants in their 3-4 defense, something that they hope will create even more confusion for their opponents this year.
For decades it seems, the Giants have been firmly ensconced in a 4-3 defense. But with new head coach Pat Shurmur and defensive coordinator James Bettcher implementing a base 3-4 defense this offseason, the Giants are switching up their defensive look and how they attack other teams. In many ways, the changes are very slight but the hope is that a Giants pass rush that was predictable last year can not only be more productive but more multiple out of the 3-4.
The Giants had the second-fewest sacks in the league last year, in and of itself a bad number. Coupled with the fact that they gave up the seventh-worst rushing yards in 2017 and it is obvious that the defensive front seven needed an overhaul.
So the Giants traded away stalwart and fan favorite Jason-Pierre Paul, a productive defensive end. They’ve gone younger and more versatile along the defensive line and at linebacker.
The 3-4 label, the Giants say, is largely semantics.
“Yeah, a 5-2, a 3-4, 6-2. It’s why I like playing in 3-4 because usually, it’s kind of a mix. Obviously, in a pass down, we can do a four-down front,” said linebacker Connor Barwin, one of the few veteran players brought into the defense this offseason. “But on first and second down, and sometimes on third down, you can show them three or five down. I think it gives the tackles or the quarterback different looks that they have to pay attention to. Sometimes, they mess up their counts, and it can really be advantageous for the guys up front.”
Alec Ogletree, one of the players brought in this offseason to help make this defense tick, thinks that the change to the 3-4 can make the Giants more unpredictable on defense.
Signed as a free agent this offseason, Ogletree is a middle linebacker who can help the Giants in their run defense but also drop back into coverage. In 15 games a year ago, he had 95 tackles and two sacks for the Los Angeles Rams.
Whatever the alignment is called, it seems the Giants think they can throw multiple looks that can confuse opposing teams.
“We’re a 3-4 team, that’s our base defense, a 3-4. We go to sub and now you have four d-linemen instead of all five guys down on the line,” Ogletree said. “It varies in the personnel the offense gives us and the type of defense we want to play. It takes a lot of communication knowing which personnel is on the field and what kind of plays you want to call.”