The New York Giants’ defense will have a new look and new attitude under recently hired coordinator Shane Bowen.
Bowen, who held the same position the past few seasons with the Tennessee Titans, will have a solid base to work with, most notably defensive lineman Dexter Lawrence and inside linebacker Bobby Okereke.
Okereke, who led the Giants in tackles this season in his first year with Big Blue under coordinator Wink Martindale, was making the rounds on Radio Row at the Super Bowl in Las Vegas this week. He told the New York Post that he and Bowen are already in touch.
“Had a great conversation with him,” Okereke said on Friday. “I’m very excited.
“I’m excited, really, how fast we jelled based on the conversation we had. 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. Just excited to start playing football again.”
Okereke and Lawrence won’t be the only pieces Bowen is inheriting. Cornerback Deonte Banks, outside linebacker Kayvon Thibodeaux and fellow inside linebacker Micah McFadden are also in that group.
Bobby Okereke and Micah McFadden were the only two LB’s to have over 100 tackles, at least 10 TFL and be on the same team. One of the best LB duos in the NFL this year. pic.twitter.com/SCGFI1bPnx
— Justin Penik (@JustinPenik) February 8, 2024
Okereke had the best season of his five-year NFL career with a team-high 149 tackles and also set career highs in passes defensed (10), forced fumbles (four), sacks (2.5), tackles for loss (11) and quarterback hits (six) while playing every single defensive snap (1,128) for the Giants this year.
Okereke will likely be asked to wear the headset again next season to call the defensive signals. He acknowledges that Bowen’s system is much different than that of Martindale’s blitzing regimen that he flourished in last year. There will be changes.
“We’re gonna simplify it. Everybody’s gonna know exactly what we’re gonna do. There’s not gonna be too many wrinkles. We’re gonna play very fundamentally sound football,” Okereke said. “We’ll probably run a good bit of 3-4, a good bit of 4-3, good bit of quarters, a good bit of Cover-2, Cover-5, so we’re all excited.”
Okereke was asked if the changes would be for the better.
“I think it will be a very good thing,” Okereke said. “That was my experience my first couple of games adjusting to the Wink system. I got to bring a lot of the tools I learned in previous systems and incorporated it into Wink’s system. I think everybody’s gonna go through that same adjustment and it’s gonna be much better form.
“A lot of the tools, a lot of the fundamental teachings we had from Wink, that’s ingrained in us, that’s part of our toolbelt and now we can go incorporate it in a different defense with a different play style. It’s only gonna help.”
As for the rift between Martindale and head coach Brian Daboll, Okereke had this to say.
“Obviously knew there was some tension there,” Okereke said. “You got two alpha coaches, everyone’s not always going to get along.
“Definitely wouldn’t have forecast it that Wink wouldn’t be our coach at the end of the year but very happy for him to get the Michigan job, and talking to Shane, I’m very excited about it, so I think it all works out.”