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Giants’ DC James Bettcher promises “relentless” defense

Says Giants might look different on every down

James Bettcher
Photo by Ed Valentine

James Bettcher opened his first press conference as New York Giants defensive coordinator talking about the weather. Talking about how his two young children had never seen snow until the family moved from Arizona to New Jersey when Bettcher joined the Giants.

He called the Northeast weather, which saw him deal with eight inches of snow in Saddle River on Tuesday, “awesome.”

Giants fans are hoping that Bettcher, after three successful seasons running the defense for the Arizona Cardinals, will bring awesome defensive play back to the Giants.

Here are some of the takeaways from Bettcher’s remarks to the media.

3-4? 4-3? Just call us “relentless”

Bettcher didn’t want to have the defense defined as a 3-4 or 4-3. “I think each and every down we might look different on defense,” he said.

“We’re going to talk about scheme. We’re going to talk about whether we’re a 3-4, a 4-3, what we’re going to look like on defense. I’ll just tell you this. What it’s about, it’s abotu playing relentless. The game is about playing hard, the game is about playing physical, and the game is about playing smart. Those are things that our guys are going to do whether we’re bringing five, bringing six, bringing four, dropping eight, whatever we’re doing.

“Our fans are going to see a defense that’s going to run around, play hard, play fast, play physical. That’s what playing defense is about. ... Hanging your hat on scheme, you don’t win that way. You hang your hat on the things that mean the most. Those things are, again, being relentless, playing hard, playing smart, and playing physical.”

Bettcher said he had “no clue” who the Giants are, or would be, defensively.

“By the end of training camp we’ll know who we are as a defense and what that looks like, whether it’s a five or six-man pressure team or playing coverage. Whatever those things look like that’s what we need to be.”

What Alec Ogletree brings to the defense

Bettcher was, of course, asked for thoughts on newly-acquired inside linebacker Alec Ogletree.

“We always thought he was a smart player. We always thought he was a guy you could see during the course of a game who was leading other players on the field. They had a bunch of talent on that defense. For you to be a guy that’s leading a defense that’s that talented says something about you and your character.

“His play, his mindset, his physicality with which he plays the game, how hard and passionate he plays the game. Those are some of the first things that jumped off the charts for me.”

New York Giants vs Dallas Cowboys Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images

Olivier Vernon’s move to linebacker

Bettcher confirmed that Olivier Vernon will be an outside linebacker when the Giants are in 3-4 looks. Bettcher pointed out that traditional 4-3 ends like Chandler Jones, Markus Golden, John Abraham and Dwight Freeney have all had success in the role the Giants will ask Vernon to play.

“His versatility, his ability to rush from different angles. We’ve all seen him drop in space and flip his hips and do some of those things. If you went and looked at our tape in Arizona and you saw Chandler Jones, we didn’t make our money in Arizona with Chandler Jones dropping and playing in space a bunch.”

Landon Collins a “moneybacker?”

In Arizona, Bettcher used smallish safety Deone Buccanon as a hybrid linebacker, a position that came to be known as the “moneybacker.” Will he use Landon Collins the same way?

“I look at him as a guy -- we had some guys in Arizona, Tyvon Branch and before Tyvon we had Tony Jefferson who played strong safety for us who could play both high, could play down in the box, could cover tight ends, could blitz off the edge,” Bettcher said. “That’s what I see with Landon, a guy who is very versatile in what he can do. You might see a snap where he’s down covering a tight end in the box, you might see a snap where he’s in the half field playing deep or in the middle of the field playing deep or you might see snaps where he’s blitzing off the edge. I think that’s the versatility a guy like him lends and that’s something that as you look and study defenses across the league and you talk to offensive guys of what gives them trouble, it’s players that have that versatility -- that one snap they’re down in the box and the next snap they’re playing high. That kind of versatility gives offenses trouble and I’m excited to have a chance to work with him.”

A clean slate for Eli Apple?

Bettcher couldn’t escape without being asked about cornerback Eli Apple, who had a tumultuous 2017 season. He indicated that the 2016 first-round pick will indeed geta fresh start.

“Day one is Monday. Day one is Monday. That is how I will answer that. Day one is Monday and every guy that walks in that room, day one is Monday. So, whatever happened before, whether it was here or whether it was with a different team, guys that we draft, whether it was in college, whatever it was that has happened with guys, day one is Monday, day one is the first day those guys walk in the building and we’re going to build from there.”

Why Bettcher likes OLB Kareem Martin

One of the players Bettcher is bringing from Arizona is outside linebacker Kareem Martin. Bettcher marveled at Martin’s improvement during four seasons with the Cardinals, calling him “one of the most improved players that I’ve ever been around.”