The New York Giants won't officially begin working with their coaching staff until late April/early May, but in the meantime, players on the defensive side of the ball have begun reaching out to new defensive coordinator Shane Bowen to extend a welcome and to initiate the working relationship that will become so important over the coming months.
One of those players who has been in contact already with Bowen is inside linebacker and team co-captain Bobby Okereke, the Giants top free-agent signing last year from the Colts, who under Bowen, will be playing in his third defensive system in as many years.
“I’m excited, really, how fast we gelled based on the conversation we had,” Okereke told the New York Post this week in Las Vegas, the site of Super Bowl XLVIII.
“We sat there and talked ball for about 10 minutes, talking to him about my experiences, playing with Matt Eberflus in the Cover 2 system, playing with Gus Bradley in the Cover 3 system, and obviously playing with Wink in the blitz-man system. Excited to immerse myself in what they do, what we do now."
Okereke finished his first season as a Giant with 149 tackles, the ninth most in the league. He did so after ranking 10th in the league in tackles in 2022 as a member of the Indianapolis Colts.
Bowen started his career as a defensive assistant with the Houston Texans in 2016. During his two seasons with the Texans, they had two of the more productive defenses in the league.
After his stint in Houston, Bowen would become the Titans' linebackers coach for three seasons before spending the last three seasons as the team's defensive coordinator before joining the Giants.
The Titans gave up the fewest rushing yards per carry and game, respectively. Bowen's defenses only allowed two 100-yard rushers during his three seasons as their defensive coordinator.
In 2022, the Titans led the league in rushing defense for the first time in nearly 20 years. Bowen has proven he deserves another opportunity after parting ways with the Titans.
Okereke also provided a few more early details about Bowen's plans for the Giants defense that should make the Giants defenders smile.
“We’re going to simplify it--everybody’s going to know exactly what we’re going to do," he said. "There’s not going to be too many wrinkles, we’re going to play very fundamentally sound football.
“We’ll probably run a good bit of 3-4, a good bit of 4-3, a good bit of quarters, a good bit of Cover 2, Cover 5, so we’re all excited.”
The Giants will commence their off-season program on April 15 with Phase 1, or the strength and conditioning program part, supervised by the team's strength and conditioning/player performance staff.
The offensive and defensive coaches will begin working with their charges a couple of weeks later as part of Phase 2 of the off-season program, with OTAs (offense vs. defense) taking place in Phase 3 starting in late May, which closes out the off-season program.
With Bowen now leading the defense, Okereke will be playing for his third defensive coordinator in as many seasons. The veteran linebacker has had two of the best seasons in his career in consecutive seasons. He now looks to do the same under new leadership.
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