It has been quite a while since the New York Giants ran a 3-4 defense. James Bettcher will install this scheme as defensive coordinator. With training camp now underway, it’s time to examine what to expect from the Giants defense going forward.
The 3-4 defense incorporates three defensive linemen: two defensive ends and a nose tackle. It is their job to battle the opponents’ offensive line. This allows the four linebackers to either rush the quarterback or drop into pass coverage.
In Bettcher’s 3-4, the nose tackle will be Damon Harrison. Harrison stands six feet, three inches tall and weighs 341 pounds. His size is perfect for a 3-4 because defensive linemen in this scheme need to take up more space and guard more territory on the defensive front. Harrison’s primary job will be eating up interior blockers (an easy task for a man whose nickname is Snacks) while trying to penetrate the offensive line.
Harrison will be called on to control the “A” gaps (the openings between the center and guards) while not getting pushed back into the linebackers. On running plays, he is expected to tackle the runner or control what is referred to as the “jump-through” (the guard or center who is trying to get at the linebackers).
Harrison will be flanked by the defensive ends (presumably Josh Mauro and Dalvin Tomlinson) who will typically lineup on the outside shoulder of the offensive tackles. This lineup is referred to as a 5-technique. Usually, the main goal is to get up the field without the responsibility of setting the edge. This allows the defensive ends to be more aggressive in penetrating the offensive line.
The four linebackers in a 3-4 defense consist of two inside linebackers and two outside linebackers.
The outside linebackers (presumably Olivier Vernon and Kareem Martin) will be lined up on the line of scrimmage about a yard away from the defensive ends or a little closer in an obvious running situation. The outside linebackers are responsible for setting the edge for the defense and not allowing runners to get outside of them. They are mostly known for rushing the passer and providing more sacks than any other position group in this scheme.
There are two inside linebackers in this scheme: the Mike (referring to the strong side) and the Will (referring to the weak side).
The Mike linebacker (presumably B.J. Goodson) is usually the stronger and larger of the two inside linebackers. He is essentially a defensive fullback. The Will linebacker (presumably Alec Ogletree) is more athletic with the ability to blitz, drop into coverage, play the run, or spy the quarterback. The Mike linebacker will occupy blockers for the Will linebacker. This allows the Will linebacker to focus squarely on playing on the ball.
The secondary consists of four defensive backs: two cornerbacks (Janoris Jenkins, Eli Apple) and two safeties (Landon Collins, Darian Thompson). If a third cornerback is needed, one of the inside linebackers leaves the field.
Bettcher is known for running a Press-man Cover 1 scheme in the secondary. This means the cornerbacks will play man-coverage while lining up on the line of scrimmage. They will jam or press wide receivers to throw off the timing. In this scheme, the safeties play zone-coverage most of the time.
The strong safety (Collins) plays shallow zone-coverage over the middle of the field being responsible for anything from the line of scrimmage to 15-20 yards downfield. The free safety (Thompson) will play single high coverage, meaning he lines up in the middle of the field and is responsible for not letting any passes beyond 15-20 yards turn into completions.
Bettcher’s 3-4 defense shifts the Giants’ defensive focus to aggressiveness with its emphasis on the blitz. He spent the previous three seasons as Arizona Cardinals defensive coordinator. In that time, Arizona was ranked third in total defense, second in run defense, third in takeaways, and fifth in three-and-out percentage.
The Giants saw Bettcher’s Cardinals defense last season in a 23-0 Week 16 shutout. Arizona allowed 293 total yards and held the Giants to 1-of-14 on third down and 1-of-4 on fourth down.
– Christian Morell is a Contributor for Full Press Coverage and covers the NFL and the New York Giants. Please like and follow on Facebook and Twitter. Christian can be followed on Twitter @Cmorell72.