The New York Giants made some noise in the week prior to free agency when they acquired Los Angeles Rams linebacker Alec Ogletree and a 2019 7th round pick, for 4th and 6th round selections in the upcoming NFL Draft. The position was criminally overlooked through the Jerry Reese tenure and new general manager Dave Gettleman has rectified the issue, while showing an aggressive nature that Giants fans are not accustomed to seeing. It encourages me, as a Giants fan, to see Gettleman be decisive and make trades like this, because we all know this was not the temperament of the last regime. We all sat and watched as the Titans (Jack Conklin) and the Bears (Leonard Floyd) jumped Big Blue in the 2016 NFL Draft, which led to the Giants drafting cornerback Eli Apple. We saw that same situation unfold four years prior, when the Buccaneers jumped the Giants to acquire Doug Martin.
The immobile nature of the last regime was evident and this trade shows a different approach; an approach I can really appreciate. Trading for an overpaid linebacker may lead some fans to be hesitant on appreciating this acquisition, but there are several reasons to find this trade intriguing. Ogletree just extended his contract with the Rams to 4-years $42.75 million this past fall. In 2018, he is owed $3 million in base salary and a $7 million roster bonus, which counts $10 million against the cap. If Ogletree fails to play well in 2018, the Giants can get out of his deal. Basically the contract is 1-year $10 million deal and if he plays well, the Giants can restructure the contract and turn the cap hit into a prorated signing bonus, which will lower the cost against the cap. Heading into free agency, the Giants had 7 unrestricted free agent linebackers, which really only left B.J. Goodson as a starting caliber linebacker, and he has shown a propensity to be injured. Whether you love or hate the trade, it is a done deal, so let’s find out how he will be implemented into James Bettcher aggressive defense.
This trade adds a 26 year old linebacker, who has experience in a 3-4 base system and I would argue that Ogletree’s best trait is his ability to blitz, which really appeals to James Bettcher. According to Pro Football Focus, the Cardinals blitzed 37% of the time in 2017 under Bettcher’s tutelage, which ranked them 5th in the NFL. They blitzed 41% of the time in 2016 and 47% of the time in 2015. The Cardinals had 37 sacks in 2017, which was ten more than the Giants. In 2016, the Cardinals led the league with 48 sacks, so being aggressive and creating pressure is an identity that the Giants are trying to cultivate. In the video below, you’ll see Bettcher’s defense at work and 36 year old Karlos Dansby circled, who is playing the presumed role that Alec Ogletree will play.
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Bettcher keeps the offense gussing, while lining up Dansby in a two-point stance and using him in a variety of schemes to create pressure. In the first clip, you can see him penetrate the guard in order to open up an alley for the looping defender in an exotic blitz look. The second clip shows Dansby creating pressure on a zone blitz through the A-gap in a stacked position, while the third clip is Dansby green-dog blitzing the B-gap. 10-years isn’t the only difference between Dansby and Ogletree; Alec possesses much more athleticism and has shown the ability to create pressure from the A, B, and C gap in Wade Phillips’ 3-4 defense.
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These three clips are blitzes into each gap, which force the quarterback off his spot and disrupt the play. He disguises the blitzes well, while showing excellent timing, with good explosiveness and athletic ability. This skill-set is exactly what James Bettcher is looking for in the middle of his defense. The Giants pass-rush has left a lot to be desired over the last few seasons and the combination of Bettcher’s scheme and Alec Ogletree’s ability is intriguing. In the video below, you can see Ogletree blitz from a stacked position, in the A gap, while also showing new Giants head coach Pat Shurmur utilize the drag route against advantageous matchups. The two clips at the end show Ogletree’s athletic ability and his competitive toughness, as he ripped the ball out of Wayne Gallman’s hands.
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With all of the intriguing qualities Ogletree brings to the table, there are significant concerns. Ogletree really struggles with missing tackles, which is a huge detriment to any position on the defense, but especially at linebacker. According to Pro Football Focus, he graded in as one of the worst defensive players in the NFL in 2017 and if you turn on his tape, you can see the struggles he has with taking on blocks, shedding, and being able to really leverage his responsibilities, while also not coming to balance before tackles and having very peculiar misses in open space. These three clips below are a microcosm of the struggles he has shown in his NFL career.
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Alec Ogletree has limitations, but he will bring the desired leadership to a position that has lacked that key trait since Antonio Pierce was roaming the middle. His ability will be valued in Bettcher’s defense, while his contract isn’t as bad as it looks once you understand the flexibility that I layed out above. It will be a slight challenge for linebackers coach Bill McGovern, who will look to resolve the deficiencies Ogletree has in his game. I’m sure Giants fans will agree that the aggressiveness of the trade is encouraging, while the priority that is being set at the linebacker position is a change we all hoped to see.
The trade suggests that the Giants are not in “rebuild” mode and that the new regime is looking for a quick turn around from the horrendous 3-13 season that the franchise just endured. All the holes on the roster and the limited depth on the team, while now only having 5 draft picks, leads me to the possibility of the Giants acquiring a king’s ransom for the #2 overall pick in the draft. Would that be the smart move or should the Giants take the future quarterback of their franchise? That is the story for another article; in the meantime, let’s welcome Ogletree to Giants nation, while hoping Bettcher maximizes his ability to rush the passer in the exotic blitzing packages that we will grow to love in 2018.