The New York Giants are nearly to the end of their spring program. The Giants have one more round of OTAs remaining until they break before returning for training camp in late July
With practices unpadded and somewhat limited, there is only so much teams can get done, particularly on the offensive line and defensive front seven. That does not, by any means, mean that they are worthless.
Giants’ defensive coordinator James Bettcher is stressing the importance of the team’s work in the class room at this point in the calendar.
“It has been really great for us,” Bettcher said in his opening remarks following Wednesday’s practice. “Everyone wants to talk about on the field, but the truth is, we are not in pads right now. A lot of that is going to be determined when we put pads on and things start happening live, fast and physical. The things that are going on in the classroom, those are all the building blocks. That is where you address the fundamentals where guys need to improve. That is where you address effort, execution, being on the same page, communication, whatever that might be. That is where all those building blocks happen. I love how this group meets. It might be a crazy thing for you to hear, but I love how they meet. Guys ask questions and are highly engaged. They are not just talking about scheme, but they are talking about what the opponent is going to do to the scheme. We are having some of those conversations right now, which is really important to build those blocks now as we head into the summer and into training camp. Really excited about that.”
What can the defensive line can do in the spring?
It can be tough to gauge how offensive and defensive linemen are progressing in the spring. Not because of learning curves, but for the simple reason that practices aren’t in pads and hitting isn’t allowed. You can only tell so much from hitting a blocking dummy and things don’t really heat up on the line of scrimmage until the shells go on in training camp.
But for now, the Giants are happy with the effort their linemen are putting in, and the growth they’ve shown on what the coaches have asked them to improve.
“They are working extremely hard and doing everything they are asked to do,” Bettcher said. “Very aware of things they need to improve on. I think I said it before, we are really big on writing prescriptions for our players. The thing they individually need to improve on, we include our players in those conversations as well.”
He continued, “For D-linemen and front guys, individual fundamentals and techniques are really what you can work on during this phase then just knowing why you are doing what you are doing. The action of it, there is nothing like putting pads on and getting pad on to pad.”
The Giants believe that the flexibility of their defensive front will be a strength for them this year. With the explosion in offense and the incorporation of college concepts into NFL schemes, the ability to adapt on the fly is vital for an NFL defense.
Bettcher said, “I think you have to be the way the league is now. I think there is enough motions, adjustments and offensive guys are good enough now. For the most part, they are not going to let a nose just sit there and play nose the whole game. They are going to make him slide and extend the play on guards and edges of guards. They are going to motion and do enough to have to be interchangeable enough to defend what we see from an offensive standpoint.”
On the pass rush
The Giants almost completely retooled their defense over the 2019 off season, moving their emphasis to the defensive secondary. Over the course of free agency and the draft, the Giants added two new starting safeties and four new cornerbacks. While hopes are high for their retooled secondary, the fact remains that it takes time for new units to gel, and almost all young defensive backs take development before they have an impact.
At the same time, they moved on from their best pass rusher in Olivier Vernon, and there have been questions about whether or not the Giants will be able to effectively rush quarterbacks and disrupt the offensive backfield.
“I believe we can,” Bettcher said, “and that will reveal itself when we get to training camp. When we get pads on and things start happening live and there are 50-50 downs. Everyone wants to rush well on third down. It is all those 50-50 downs that are 50 percent run, 50 percent pass. That makes up the larger portions of the game. That is when you have to find out how good guys are as rushers. You won’t know that until you put pads on. It is run one snap, then it is the play-action pass. The ability to disrupt the pocket on those downs will be important.”
I think you have to be the way the league is now. I think there is enough motions, adjustments and offensive guys are good enough now. For the most part, they are not going to let a nose just sit there and play nose the whole game. They are going to make him slide and extend the play on guards and edges of guards. They are going to motion and do enough to have to be interchangeable enough to defend what we see from an offensive standpoint.
2018 third round pick Lorenzo Carter might be the most important component of the Giants’ pass rush in 2019. Carter flashed the athletic tools which helped the Giants fall in love with him in last year’s draft process, but never really blossomed as a pass rusher his rookie year.
So far, Bettcher likes what he is seeing from Carter.
Bettcher said, “He is rushing with a plan. When you see him rush, a year ago he was trying to get off the ball as quick as he could and use his hands when he could. Now, you see a guy that is aware of how he wants to rush, aware of techniques that he wants to rush with. Guys that get in there as pass rushers, I have been in there and have coached them before personally, you see their best growth in the two and three years. You start to figure out what they are as rushers. Whether you are Chandler Jones and a really bloody rusher or a speed counter guy. He is really starting to figure that out. He is building his pass rush toolbox right now.”
Wait, what? “A really bloody rusher” ...I can’t say I’ve heard that turn of phrase before. Everyone wants to be physical, but that might be taking things a bit far.
Bettcher continued to praise Carter’s work this spring, saying, “The second thing, he is practicing as hard as anyone on the field right now. He is running around and has been a great example that we have been able to show defensively of just straining and effort, finish.”
The Giants have one more mandatory practice remaining before their final round of OTAs and then their summer break. We still have a long way to go before September gets here, but time is still of the essence. Bettcher has been happy to see the competitiveness of his defense and how players are pushing each other.
“Guys have been challenging each other to get better,” He said. “I am not talking about offense and defense, I am talking about on the defensive side of the ball. Anything that is coach driven is not going to be nearly as successful as things that are player driven. Our guys are driving it right now. They are the driving force of the work and the driving force of ownership. They are the driving force of accountability on defense and, to me, that is another part that has been exciting.”
“Other than that,” Bettcher added, “we have one more tomorrow and then a week next week of four days. We have to stack good meetings and good practices. When we get back and put pads on, we will really see where we are at.”