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James Bettcher excited to work with LB Alec Ogletree


*DC James Bettcher saw Alec Ogletree firsthand playing against each other in the NFC West: *

Every game is an audition in the NFL, and Alec Ogletree did it twice a year in front of James Bettcher since 2013. Now he will be doing it 16 times and, they hope, beyond.

Both men landed new gigs this year with the Giants. Incoming head coach Pat Shurmur hired Bettcher as his defensive coordinator after three successful seasons in the same role with the Cardinals. Ogletree, a former NFC West rival of his with the Rams, was then acquired via trade last month much to Bettcher's delight.

The defense starts to come together on Monday when players report for the start of the team's voluntary nine-week offseason workout program.

"I saw him up close and personal in Arizona during our time there," Bettcher said. "Did him when he came out in the draft and was a guy that was always -- we always thought he was a smart player. We always thought he was a guy you could see during a course of a game that was leading other players on the field, and they had a bunch of talent on that defense and for you to be a guy that is leading a defense that's that talented says something about you and your character."

Bettcher knows his linebackers.

He cut his teeth in that room as a position coach before being promoted to run the entire defense in 2015, a stretch that saw the Cardinals' defense finish fifth, second and sixth in fewest yards allowed. Bettcher had just become Arizona's outside linebackers coach when Ogletree was drafted 30th overall in 2013.

Since then, Ogletree started all 67 regular-season games that he played in, including 31 at middle linebacker and 36 outside. In four of his five seasons with the Rams, he led the team in tackles, missing the mark only in 2015 when an ankle injury limited him to just four games.

"You watch his play and I'm not just talking about his ability to make tackles or run down things on the sideline," Bettcher said. "I'm talking about his play, his mindset, his physicality at which he plays the game, how hard and passionate he plays the game. Those were some of the first things that jumped off the charts for me when we had a chance to get him here. Certainly excited about him as a leader and a guy that is going to bring a ton of energy to our room."

Labeled by general manager Dave Gettleman as the new "quarterback" of the defense, Ogletree looks to bring stability at the heart of a Giants defense that went from 30th to second and back down to 27th in points allowed in the span of three years.

"It's an exciting time," said linebackers coach Bill McGovern, who was retained by new head coach Pat Shurmur. "We're getting a little bit of new blood in and obviously, some guys will be playing some different positions, but it's the same scheme that I've dealt with in the past [in my career]. But obviously, James has been around it a long time and understands it better and we're looking to just kind of move forward with the guys that we have."

On Ogletree, McGovern added: "I see a guy who's a playmaker. You can tell he takes the lead out on the field on the defensive side of the ball. He can run and hit, he shows up, he flashes on the pass rush game too. So, we're excited to have him."

Of course, Ogletree's arrival means B.J. Goodson will find a new role.

The Giants' 2016 fourth-round draft pick impressed everyone with his leadership qualities as a young player, so much so that he became the "quarterback" of the defense a year ago. However, injuries derailed his campaign and limited him to just seven games.

"I think the guys, when they get on the field, it'll work itself out," McGovern said. "The guys are going to get out there, they're going to play, and we brought in Alec for a reason. He's shown his leadership qualities. We're excited about B.J. We think he has leadership qualities, and the more leaders and good people we can put in the locker room, we're excited about."

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