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Bret Bielema on developing the Giants’ young outside linebackers

Bielema on teaching rookies in the COVID era, and how Cam Brown, Oshane Ximine, and Lorenzo Carter can get to the next level

Matthew Swensen

It’s no secret that the New York Giants pass rush, and linebacker corps in general, has been a disappointment for a couple years now.

Bret Bielema is the man charged with the most hands-on role in changing that. Bielema is one of a number of former head coaches on the Giants’ coaching staff, having coached for Wisconsin and Arkansas before becoming a defensive consultant and defensive line coach for the New England Patriots. He’s now the Giants’ outside linebackers coach, and it’s his job to see that the Giants are able to apply pressure to opposing quarterbacks.

On developing the players

Bielema said that run defense is “kind of a universal thing,” but that pass rush was individual to each player. He said, “the pass game in particular pass rush, it’s very unique to each player. You can’t teach a player that maybe doesn’t feel comfortable with a club rip ,or a grab-and-go, or a stab and Jab. Whatever it is, some guys just feel better in different roles, and as a pass rusher if you don’t have confidence before the ball is snapped, you’re not going to play well at all.”

“We have a giant toolbox sitting there, right?” he added. “Everybody’s toolbox is different and the more tools we can add for them, the more things we can do.

“Maybe it’s how they do a certain look, how they place their hands, countermove. Most natural pass rushers, it’s not their first move, it’s their second move. So to build a little bit of a repertoire with each one of those guys on what their strengths [are], minimize our weaknesses, then hopefully have great results on game days.”

On the young linebackers

Cam Brown

Many Giants fans and outside observers were expecting — or hoping — that the Giants would address the linebacker position early, either selecting Isaiah Simmons out of Clemson with the fourth overall pick, or Zach Baun out of Wisconsin at the top of the second round. Instead, the Giants didn’t select a linebacker until picking Penn State’s Cam Brown in the sixth round. Brown, a long off-ball linebacker, was something of an unknown throughout the draft process. Interestingly, Bielema said that the Giants are moving Brown closer to the line of scrimmage than he has played previously.

“Cam has been awesome to work with I think because we’re asking [him] to do some new things, there are some things he hasn’t had to experience yet,” Bielema said. “And you don’t know what you don’t know, and Cam has bought in to that a hundred percent. Really fun to see him grow, especially this past Friday to take the things he learned during practice applying to what he saw during the game — as game-like as we can make it. We’re not getting preseason games, so especially for these rookies, these practices are so crucial to their success, their growth. When we have the preseason, you’re able to adjust and adapt and kind of teach them what it’s like. And because we don’t have that same opportunity with these rookies a particular, you have to put as much stress on them as you physically can, emotionally and physically in practice. Cam’s had an upward tick every day. Every day is, maybe not where you want it, but he he works his tail off to get there, and it’s been really really fun to work with.

Lorenzo Carter and Oshane Ximines

The Giants drafted outside linebackers in the third round of the 2018 and 2019 drafts as well. And while Carter and Ximines haven’t had breakout performances yet, the Giants are counting on them to be the backbone of their pass rush going forward. A big part of Bielema’s job will be getting those two young players to take their games to the next level. Bielema says that the two have bought in, are grinding, and “stacking days”.

“I think the part it’s been fun to work with those two and really the room in general is they bought into everything that Joe [Judge] has talked about since day one,” he said. “As a positional coach we go in there, we talk about specific things that pertain to outside backer play. It’s easy to see that both of them have a lot of talent a lot of physical raw skills that they’ve been able to hone and kind of be specific, but now to fit into our scheme they’re going to work every day.

“They’re doing their daily grind and keep stacking days together, and then hopefully the results will start to show up on Sundays the way that they envisioned, the way we envision them and hopefully everybody will on the outside world as well.”