The New York Giants’ foundation has been built on hard hitting, crushing defenses throughout its 94-year history. In 2017, the defense was a shadow of its historical self.
The Giants ranked 31st in total defense, surrendering 5,971 yards. They also ranked 31st against the pass (4,038 yards) and 27th against the run (1,933 yards). Opponents scored an average of 24.3 points per game, a far cry from the days of defenses led by the Hall of Famers Lawrence Taylor and Michael Strahan.
Nine defensive players were placed on injured reserve last season, including five linebackers. The defensive problems were not limited to on-the-field issues. Three players were suspended for various disciplinary reasons.
In one of the first roster moves of the offseason, the Giants made a trade with the Los Angeles Rams for middle linebacker Alec Ogletree. The Rams will receive the Giants’ fourth-round (135th overall) and sixth-round (176th overall) picks in next month’s NFL Draft. The Giants will also receive the Rams’ seventh-round pick in 2019.
“We’re very excited to have made the trade for Alec,” general manager Dave Gettleman said in a statement after the trade became official. “He gives us our defensive quarterback. He was a two-time captain with the Rams, voted on by his teammates. He’s a leader, and that’s very important to us. Just as important, he’s a quality three-down Mike linebacker. We’re just thrilled to have him.”
On the field, Ogletree will do pretty much what he did with the Rams. Defensive coordinator James Bettcher will install a 3-4 defense similar to the Rams defense. With the Rams, Ogletree prowled from sideline to sideline making plays. The results were 367 total tackles (232 solo), 5.5 sacks, six interceptions, 42 passes defended, 12 forced fumbles, two fumbles recovered, and two defensive touchdowns in five seasons.
Ogletree was not only brought in for his playmaking ability. He was the Rams’ defensive captain and a respected member of their locker room. Ogletree was so popular that many of his former Rams teammates, including NFL Offensive Player of the Year Todd Gurley, took to social to voice their displeasure with the trade.
Ogletree should ingratiate himself to his new teammates in short order. Safety Andrew Adams is his brother-in-law.
There should be no residual effects of an encounter Ogletree had with the Giants’ best player: wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. In a 2014 Week 16 game at the Edward James Dome, Ogletree and Beckham got involved in some extracurricular pushing and shoving.
“No, that happened three, four years ago and we’ve seen each other since then and there’s never been any bad blood,” Ogletree said. “It’s football and it happened. We were playing against each other and we wish it didn’t happen the way it did, and it did and honestly, he was one of the first guys to call me to welcome me to the team. I didn’t know who it was and I was like, ‘Who is this?’
“He actually sent me a video of the fight [laughs] and he was like, ‘We’re going after it every day at practice.’ And I was like, ‘Oh, yeah.’ So, it was all good. Like I said, I’m excited to be here and it’s going to be a good thing, for sure.”
Ogletree was the Rams’ defensive captain. He’s expected to perform a similar role with the Giants but he’s no the type to give inspirational speeches.
“I’m more of a lead-by-example guy,” Ogletree said. “Your actions speak louder than words do. But, at the same time, if something needs to be said, I don’t have a problem saying it and getting guys to do the right thing.”
Ogletree, the 30th overall pick in the 2013 NFL Draft out of Georgia, will be the third-highest paid inside linebacker in the league with an average salary of $10 million a season.