The trade that sent linebacker Alec Ogletree from the Los Angeles Rams to the New York Giants was made official on Wednesday, the first day of the NFL’s new year. It was another bold stroke by Giants GM Dave Gettleman this offseason in his quest to restock the team’s subpar roster that won just five games in 2017.
“We’re very excited to have made the trade for Alec,” Gettleman said in a release by the team. “He gives us our defensive quarterback. He was a two-time captain with the Rams, voted on by his teammates. He’s a leader, and that’s very important to us. Just as important, he’s a quality three-down MIKE linebacker. We’re just thrilled to have him.”
The Giants had to part with two draft picks (a fourth and sixth-rounder) to seal the deal, and in a season where those draft picks might be viewed as valuable assets, Gettleman felt it was well worth it.
“When you get a player of this quality, you can do it. Alec is 26. He’s young, he’s under contract for the next four years. We really thought he was a great guy to add.”
He’s right. The Giants have been somewhat of an embarrassment at linebacker the past few seasons. Former GM Jerry Reese neglected the position by not using high draft picks to address the dearth of talent on the defensive roster. The players he did select rarely panned out. In his eleven trips to the draft table, Reese did not use a first round selection on a linebacker and took only one, Virginia pass rusher Clint Sintim (2009), in the second round.
Sintim was a bust from the get-go. He started only game in his two seasons in Blue before blowing out his ACL twice forcing him into an early retirement. None of the other players Reese selected at the position played more than three seasons with the club. B.J. Goodson, the team’s fourth round pick two years ago, was the starter at MLB last season but injuries cut his season short.
Ogletree has been brought in to remedy Reese’s failures. He is highly accomplished, leading the Rams in tackles in four of his five seasons, missing only 2015 when an ankle injury limited him to four games. The 2013 first round pick out of Georgia had 155 tackles as a rookie, 169 the following season, 171 in 2016, and 95 last year. His career totals include 645 tackles (475 solo), 5.5 sacks, six interceptions (including two returned for touchdowns), 43 passes defensed, 12 forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries.
It is the start of a new era for the Giants. They haven’t had a linebacker with this much talent since Antonio Pierce and Ogletree might even be better. The fact is, the team hasn’t been led in tackles by a linebacker since Jameel McClain in 2014.
What Ogletree brings most to the defense is leadership, a trait it has been lacking for some time now. By admission, he isn’t a vocal person but the Giants will need him to be.
“I’m more of a lead by example guy,” Ogletree said on a conference call Wednesday. “Your actions speak louder than words do, but at the same time, if something needs to be said, I don’t have a problem saying it and getting guys to do the right thing.”
And the right thing would be to shape this defense into something special. With stars such as Landon Collins, Janoris Jenkins, Olivier Vernon, Damon Harrison, Jason Pierre-Paul and now Ogletree, the Giants can certainly make their mark under new defensive coordinator James Bettcher this season.
“He’s the type of guy that knows how to use his players to get guys to play and I’m just an extension of him,” Ogletree said of Bettcher. “When we get on the same page and get to work together it’s definitely going to be a good thing. I’ve seen some of his work, of course he was in the same division as me and those guys had a great defense and we’re definitely looking to bring that to New York.”
With the Giants seeking to fortify their sagging offense here in 2018, the onus on improving the defense has come down to the addition of both Ogletree and Bettcher. The other pieces are there. In addition to above-mentioned players, they will be looking for more from Goodson and safety Darian Thompson.
Another newly-signed LB, Kareem Martin, who played for Bettcher in Arizona, also figures to play a key role. But expect Gettleman to find some players in the cracks this spring to fill out his roster.
It’s not always about getting the best players as it is about getting the right ones, and Ogletree just may be the start of it all.