The one New York Giants player that’s familiar with James Bettcher’s 3-4 scheme is outside linebacker, Kareem Martin.
Change can be good, but it can also be very challenging.
The New York Giants will go through several changes this season. This greatest of which will see the team transitioning from a 4-3 defense to a base 3-4.
The Giants have played a 4-3 defense for the better part over the last two decades in which they’ve relied on elite pass rushing defensive ends such as Michael Strahan, Osi Umenyiora, Justin Tuck and Jason Pierre-Paul.
Under defensive coordinator James Bettcher’s 3-4 scheme, they will rely heavily on generating pressure along the edge from their outside linebackers.
Any scheme change can be challenging for players to adapt to a new system and have it down by the start of the season. That’s why, when the Giants signed free agent outside linebacker Kareem Martin in the offseason, it was one of Dave Gettleman’s biggest acquisitions.
Acquiring the 6-foot-6, 272-pound Martin may not have been a sexy pickup, but what he brings to the Giants is invaluable because he’s familiar with Bettcher’s defense having played for him when he was with the Arizona Cardinals from 2014-2017. Bettcher was the Cardinals defensive coordinator from 2015-2017.
Martin’s numbers don’t jump up at you as he’s amassed 51 tackles, 4.5 sacks and one interception in his four seasons with the Cardinals. But his experience and how he can mentor his teammates on Bettcher’s scheme makes him one of the most valuable players on the defense.
Back in April, Martin spoke about how helpful it is playing in the same defense and what his familiarity with Bettcher’s defense will mean to the team.
“It’s been really helpful, especially in the transition. Coming from the West Coast to East, it can be really tough. Especially trading teams, not really knowing anyone. But having Coach Betch here and having this defense, it takes a lot of pressure off myself, to having to learn people and learning a defense. So, I think it’s been really helpful for myself and I think it’ll be beneficial for the defense, me being a guy that they can lean on when they have questions about the defense or any of the schemes, I’m comfortable with answering any questions.”
The fact that he can answer his teammate’s questions and that he’s the only defender that’s played under Bettcher is why he’s been the starting left outside linebacker during OTAs and minicamp, over third-round pick Lorenzo Carter.
One of the sentiments surrounding the defensive players is how much they enjoy playing in Bettcher’s scheme.
“It’s a fun defense. We’re an attacking, heavy pressure team. We keep teams guessing. Make a lot of checks and we keep a lot of teams on their toes, we disguise a lot of things. It gets guys energized. You never know who’s coming, who’s dropping. I think that adds to it, to the success that we’ve had the past couple of years in Arizona. And we look to bring that here.”
Martin and the rest of the defense have looked good during minicamp, but they’ve been limited in what they can do since there’s limited contact during minicamp. But training camp will be different since the Giants will be in full pads.
I asked Martin after one of the minicamp sessions about how he can his teammates are looking forward to training camp, where they can go full speed.
“Training camp will definitely be fun because the guys in this defense will be able to go full speed and see that oh wow this will really open up, but right now you can go in the gap but you can’t engage.”
We’ll finally get to see Martin and the rest Giants defense engage against the revamp offensive line when the team puts on pads for training camp come July 25.
The Giants defense has a ton of talented players such as Landon Collins, Damon Harrison, and Dalvin Tomlinson. But one of the most important players will be Martin because of the knowledge that he brings.