James Bettcher hasn't unveiled his vision for what his new Giants defense is going to look like next season. But linebacker Kareem Martin has a pretty good idea of how exciting it's going to be.
"It's going to be a relentless defense," Martin, the newest Giants linebacker, said on a conference call on Friday. "We're a heavy blitz team in the past years and he likes to get guys run up the field and I think that's what the guys are going to be really excited about, especially the guys up front.
"This could be a top defense in the NFL."
That's going to be music to the ears of anyone who watched the Giants go from a Top 10 defense in 2016 to second-worst in the NFL last season. Bettcher, the new defensive coordinator, had a top-six defense for all three of his years in Arizona. And Martin, who left the Cardinals after four seasons to sign a three-year, $21 million deal with the Giants, clearly expects more of the same.
To make it happen, though, Martin is going to have be a part-time teacher, too. He's the lone player currently on the Giants' roster who knows the ins and outs of Bettcher's 3-4 defense. He knows he's expected to ease the transition, especially for the players up front who are so used to playing the Giants' old 4-3.
"Yes, that's something that I expected when they gave me the call and made the offer," he said. "I knew that I would probably be looked upon as a guy who would be asked those types of questions about the defense after being in it for the last few years. And even talking with the coaches at dinner and things, they were telling me that they know I was comfortable in the defense, and if I found anyway that I could help those guys learn it or different techniques that we had learned in the past in this defense, to feel free to do that.
"So I think I'll be a big help in helping a lot of the guys understand the defense along with the coaches as well. I know they're going to do a great job of teaching it and learning it themselves."
The transition probably will be the most complex for Olivier Vernon and Jason Pierre-Paul. Depending on how Bettcher chooses to use them, one or both could end up playing as a 3-4 edge rusher, perhaps in a rotation with Martin. Both Vernon (6-2, 262) and JPP (6-5, 275) are relatively similar in size to Martin (6-6, 272) - moreso JPP, obviously - and are both athletic enough to be a pass rusher and do everything else an outside linebacker in a 3-4 gets asked to do, too.
"I feel like the outside linebacker position is probably the most important," Martin said. "We have the most responsibilities. We're expected to set the edge on the run, rush the quarterback and drop in coverage. As far as learning curve goes, there is a slight learning curve, but when JB was in Arizona, he started with the outside linebackers, so he spends a lot of time with those guys to make sure that we understand the ins and outs of the defense because he's going to expect a lot from us in that position."
Martin, who said he expects to play on both the strong and weak sides, will be there to help, too. And when it all comes together, he's sure the Giants defense will back to it's old, powerful, aggressive self again.
"There are a lot of late, complex blitzes where he likes to move guys and get them in different places that they usually might not play," Martin said. "That's where my versatility comes into play for this defense. So I think Bettch, he's drawing up some good things to make sure that we have a lot of guys on the field making plays. "