New York Giants defensive coordinator James Bettcher is going to bring the heat. It’s ingrained in how he carries himself, how he teaches, and how his defenses attack opposing offenses.
Bettcher met with the media before practice on Monday to go over the development of the players and scheme leading up to Thursday night’s preseason opener against the Cleveland Browns.
On balancing the aggressiveness on defense and not putting the offense in danger:
“Well, number one, practicing smart is one of the things that we talk about on a daily basis. Coach Shurmur talks about it, we talk about it on defense – to be able to practice at full speed and to do some of the stuff we do, we have to practice the right way and work the right way. We’re working against our teammates, and our guys are aware of that. That’s just building good practice habits so we can do the things that we do on defense on a daily basis. But in terms of keeping our foot on the gas, absolutely. We are full speed ahead in terms of the process, both installation, how will we do what we do more importantly than what the scheme is, how we work on a daily basis, how our meetings are, what the expectation is, jogging on and off the field, getting in and out of the huddle, breaking the huddle – all these little things, because the little things are the big things. That’s one thing that I really love about this group, is that they’re building an identity and it’s not like it’s an identity of next year’s team or last year’s team or any other team, they’re building their identity as of right now, and that is taking care of the details, being assignment-sound, having their eyes in the right place, communicating well pre-snap and post-snap, and I really like that about this group and the direction in regards to that stuff that we’re doing.”
On matching the intensity he asks of the players and coaches:
“I can’t ask my guys to bring energy if I’m not, and it’s the same thing with our position coaches that are doing such a great job. We’ve got such a great group of coaches that Coach Shurmur has assembled here on the defense, each of the positions. I can’t ask them to bring energy if I’m not going to bring it, and I learned a long time ago what you emphasize is what you get, and that seems so elementary but it’s the truth. And we’re just going to emphasize the details, emphasize the energy and physicality it takes to play this game, and if it’s not good enough, we’re going to be honest about it in the room, talking to ourselves, and if it is great, we’re going to recognize that as well.”
On the development of the pass rushers:
“I think it’s a group of guys that are really working their craft. I think to be a really good pass rusher in this league, see I’ve been so lucky – I’ve been around some of the best in the last decade, from Dwight [Freeney], to John Abraham, to Chandler [Jones], to Marcus [Golden], Robert Mathis, and now OV [Olivier Vernon] – I’ve been lucky. I’ve learned more from them than they’ve learned from me. And just one of the things I’ve learned is each guy is different and each guy’s toolbox of a rusher is different, and it doesn’t need to be a huge repertoire of moves and all those things. We’ve just really tried to talk to each guy individually and focus on, hey, what’s the two things you’re trying to work, and keep them on track on working on those things. So, to answer your question, I love the direction it’s heading. We still have work to do, we still have another two to three weeks of really good work to find out who our best guys are going to be, whether it’s four guys rushing or guys rushing from different angles in those one-on-ones. We’ve got to identify that. I don’t want to be too quick to identify who those four guys are, because I want them to grow.”
“I’ll tell you a guy that’s had a couple good practices is [Lorenzo Carter]. Lorenzo’s really had a couple of good practices and as in any rookie, the challenge is to stack them – it’s not to have one day in flash, it’s to have two days and, OK, let’s go correct what we’ve got to correct, then as a young guy, do we see when you go to the field, do we see those corrections happen and do we see it continue to get better? So, we’re looking for a third day in a row from him. He’s had some on and off days, he’s had two pretty good days in a row, and we’re looking for a third good day today.”
On moving Landon Collins around the defense:
“You know, but I think the thing that Landon really does well, is Landon has embraced anything we’ve thrown at him. You’ve probably seen by now he’s been in the box a little bit, he’s been up high a little bit, he’s been down low and outside a little bit, he’s been on the line of scrimmage, coming from the line of scrimmage at times, so he’s really embraced those things and he’s detailed each of those places and what the job is that he needs to do to be successful, and as much as anything, if you’re going to be able to do those things, that’s the approach you have to take and he’s taken it.”
On the competition for the safety spot opposite Collins:
“I’d say there’s four guys that are in that role right now. There’s none that’s separated themselves, we’re just going to keep letting the process work and there’s always something you’ll appreciate about competition. Those guys are all in, and they’re helping each other and they’re helping grow, and that’s kind of leads to the collective of this defense as these guys are trying to take care of each other, encourage each other, push each other, and those individual competitions within position groups, if we have that mindset, it leads to the group and these next three weeks, there’s going to be a lot to be determined at that position as well as some other places.”
We know how Bettcher likes to bring the blitz on defense. Per the Football Outsiders Almanac, the Cardinals had the ninth-highest rate of rushing five defenders (23.7 percent) and the sixth-highest rate of rushing six or more (8.7 percent) last season.
But it’s not just the linebackers who are tasked with creating the extra pressure. Few teams relied more on defensive backs to blitz than Bettcher’s Cardinals — Arizona had the sixth-highest rate of defensive back blitzes in the league last season. In Bettcher’s scheme safeties are also tasked with coverage at a high rate. The Cardinals had the highest rate of plays with safeties in man coverage — mostly because Tyrann Mathieu was a de facto nickel corner as a safety.
Still, there seems to be a lot left to work out at a position that has major responsibilities in Bettcher’s ideal defense.