The New York Giants defense went through a transformation over the 2018 offseason, coming through looking quite different from the defense of 2016 and 2017.
After a disappointing performance in the 2018 season, the GIants are transforming their defense again, and while the scheme might be the same, there will be many new faces on the field in 2019. Most notably, the defensive secondary has been almost completely made over, but there has been turnover at every level of the defense.
Considering the Giants spent seven of their ten draft picks on defensive players — eight of eleven if we are counting Sam Beal — many of those new players will be rookies.
But regardless of changing personnel, defensive coordinator James Bettcher’s goal for the defense remains the same: Attack.
“I am hoping it can be an aggressive, attacking defense that dictates,” Bettcher said to the media Wednesday. “As I look at where it is at today and moving to tomorrow, I believe that is what it can be.”
It was widely expected that when faced with a glaring need for a pass rusher and faced with one of the best pass rushing draft classes we have seen in recent memory, the Giants would gleefully draft either Josh Allen or Ed Oliver if either was available. As it turned out, both were available and when faced with the decision, the Giants picked neither.
Despite being denied a blue chip pass rusher, Bettcher took the decision in stride.
“If you want to ask me if I would have love to have Josh Allen or Ed Oliver,” Bettcher said, “I think if you lined up 32 coordinators and however many hundreds of defensive coordinators there are that have ever coordinated and said hey, you get picks one through five in the draft and you get to draft anyone that you want, I have a feeling they would take all defensive players. You can’t talk about team and not be about team. You can’t talk about building culture and not be about that. You can’t preach to your players as a coach and not be about that life, right? Whoever we have, we are excited to have. That is not a company line, it is personal opinion.”
While the conversation around the Giants’ draft has been dominated by their first pick, the Giants did take a pair of defenders with the seventeenth and 30th overall picks.
On Dexter Lawrence ...
With the seventeenth overall pick, the Giants took mammoth defensive tackle Dexter Lawrence out of Clemson. About Lawrence, Bettcher said, “One of the biggest humans that I have ever seen, moves as quick as he can move. A 330-pound guy that is going to come in and compete, help us be the type of run defense that we want to be. Also, don’t forget the guy ran about five flat at 345 pounds. That does not happen very often. A lot of people got to see him move at rookie minicamp. We are excited to have him.”
When you take a player in the middle of the first round of the draft, you expect him to push for (if not win) a starting job early in his rookie year. That is exactly what Bettcher is looking for from Lawrence, saying, “He is going to come in, compete and try and be a starter. We have a young room with some flexible players. A year ago when Snacks left and Dalvin was playing a little more nose, we ended up really at times playing some right and left with B.J. One was a three technique and one was a nose in our sub stuff.”
He added that each of the Giants’ top three defensive tackles have the ability to play a variety of alignments, and each will move around the line. “All those guys have had the flexibility and they do have the flexibility to play three [technique],” Bettcher said. “It will be competing each week to see who gets the most snaps, who will be the starter in different packages.”
On Deandre Baker ...
The Giants’ third first round selection came as a a surprise when they executed a trade to move up from 37th overall and back into the first round and select Georgia cornerback Deandre Baker with the 30th overall pick.
Baker was widely regarded as one of the top three corners in the draft, and
“The thing I would say about Baker is that he played in a very, very tough league,” Bettcher said. “We all know how long it was before he gave up a touchdown pass.”
In fact, Baker went 870 coverage snaps without allowing a touchdown pass.
Bettcher continued, “He competed and covered some of the best players that have come out of that league on offense. His tape speaks for itself. One of the best, if not the best, tackling corner in the draft, period. Excited to have him. He did an outstanding job at camp this past week.”
On Julian Love ...
Technically the third cornerback drafted by the Giants in the 2019 NFL Draft, Julian Love has been regarded as, perhaps, the Giants’ best pick.
Bettcher believes that Love is a natural slot corner and he will compete with Grant Haley for the role, but he also wouldn’t commit to his future as a corner either.
Bettcher said, “Initially, you will get him in and teach him a spot. Early on, it is a really good opportunity for us to get a look at him at a few different places and see maybe where we feel his natural fit is as we move forward. Naturally, he is a nickel. What is the second position, is he a safety or a corner?”
It seems that a question of athleticism isn’t driving the potential position change, but Love’s intelligence. “Time tells with that and more reps tell us that,” Bettcher said, “You have to be smart and pretty intelligent like he is to be able to handle that.”
On Oshane Ximines ...
The Giants finally drafted a pass rusher at the end of the third round in Oshane Ximines from Old Dominion. While he looks like Osi Umenyiora, Ximines (or X-Man, as the Giants have called him), relies more on power and technique to win. That Giants believe Ximines can help generate a pass rush, both as a rusher himself and dropping int coverage on zone blitzes.
“X-man coming off the tape, I loved the way he played,” Bettcher said. Saw a guy that could flip and had athleticism to move in space. If you are picking a prototypical outside linebacker, he has some of both of those skills. He has the rush skills and has skills in his hips to open, change in space and change who the rusher is.”