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2024 NFL Combine

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What the Giants' new defense will look like under Shane Bowen

SHANE-BOWEN-HELLMANNS

INDIANAPOLIS – Since the conclusion of the 2023 season, the Giants have hired seven new assistant coaches, given new titles to three incumbents, and assigned another to a new position group. With all this change, perhaps the most significant question involves how the defense will change under new coordinator Shane Bowen, who takes over for Wink Martindale in Year 3 of Brian Daboll's head coaching regime.

"We're probably not going to blitz as much as we did in the past," general manager Joe Schoen said at the NFL Scouting Combine here. "But we're going to be very sound, it's going to be very similar to what they did in Tennessee. I think the up-field pass rush is going to be more of a premium versus the read and react. Maybe a little bit less man coverage, but we are going to be physical, fast and we're going to be sound in our assignments."

Does hiring a new coordinator mean Schoen must change the defensive personnel to fit the new scheme?

"It doesn't," he said. "Bill Parcells told me a long time ago, coaches come and go, so you better not pick (players) scheme specific. Because if we had scheme specific guys, now they are no good to this new scheme. So, as we picked players, or signed them in free agency, the versatility is very important to these players. The ability to play in multiple schemes is always in the back of our minds when we pick these guys. So, it shouldn't really affect the current roster."

The general manager fielded numerous questions about the new members of the coaching staff.

Three of the new arrivals came from the Tennessee Titans, including Bowen (who held the same position with the Titans), tight ends coach Tim Kelly (Tennessee's offensive coordinator in 2023) and defensive assistant Zak Kuhr (the Titans' inside linebackers assistant the previous three seasons).

Why so many coaches from Tennessee?

"I would say they've had a lot of success there," Schoen said. "Maybe the last couple of years they've struggled. We played them first week of 2022, they're coming off the number one seed (in 2021). They were the number one seed. And when we were in Buffalo, we played them like four years straight and they were always a tough, physical team and they beat us three out of four times, I believe. So, a lot of respect for that coaching staff. We had some intimate knowledge with (Executive Advisor to the General Manager) Ryan Cowden in our building, who I've worked with and (defensive coordinator) Shane (Bowen) did a really good job as a defensive coordinator and the interview, he did a really good job and then (tight ends coach) Tim Kelly is a former offensive coordinator, he's now our tight ends coach, so you bring that knowledge as an offensive coordinator and, again, it wasn't planned that way, 'Hey we're going to go pillage that ex-Tennessee staff', but there are a lot of really good coaches and they won a lot of games when (Mike) Vrabel was the head coach."

Given the turnover on the staff, Schoen was asked if Daboll needs to handle his staff differently than his first two years as head coach.

"We are all going to learn and grow over time, but we have to," Schoen said. "It's the first time that we went through adversity. I'm sure there is a lot that we all learned about ourselves going through that and as leaders, myself included, we've all got to get better in terms of how we handle those situations, and I think we are all going to reflect this offseason on how things went and what we can do better, and I would put Dabs in that category as well."

The lone returning coordinator is Mike Kafka on offense. There has been some speculation that Daboll may assume play-calling duties this season. Kafka has been the play caller the past two seasons. When they joined the Giants in 2022, Schoen said his preference was for Daboll not to call the plays. How will he respond if Daboll says he wants to call them in the coming season?

"I'm never going to tell him what to do," Schoen said. "That's his world. I'll be a sounding board, I'll give advice, but I'm never going to tell him what to do as a coach. So, if he decided he ever wanted to do that, that's up to him. I'm never going to tell him one way or the other what to do on the field and what not, that's his world."

Schoen said they have yet to have those discussions.

"Right now, it's February 27th, so they are going through all the self-scout," he said "The coaches as a staff, the offensive staff, the defensive staff have basically been locked in their staff rooms, going through every game, every play, versus divisional opponents, third downs. They are doing all this self-scout right now, so as we get toward the end of the March, that's when they'll kind of come out of there, 'Okay, here's what we need to do, here's how we are going to adjust things."

Schoen denied an uneasiness exists between Daboll and Kafka, who interviewed for two heading coaching positions this offseason.

"There is no tension there," Schoen said. "Mike's a really good coach, he's a great teammate. He's an asset around the building and he's a young coach that's been a coordinator for two years and we elevated him to a new title (assistant head coach) because we are going to continue to develop him as a head coach. Obviously, there is a lot of like for him around the league, he's in demand. He was a finalist for two jobs over the last couple of years and he's earned it, he's a really good coach that's got a bright future and he's an asset to the organization. There's no tension between Mike and Dabs."

Schoen also confirmed and clarified reports that wore headsets and he listened to the coaches' communications during four games last season.

"It's something I've wanted to do for quite some time," he said. "We were at Washington, and I can show you guys sometime, but where they put us, it's not a great spot to watch the game. So, I went and did it and it was amazing. Just the communication of the coaches from an evaluation standpoint when I talk to John Mara after the game or my personnel staff, I can say 'Yeah, player X screwed that up' or 'Yeah, we called this, but this happened' or 'The safety was over, and he was supposed to be that way' or whatever it maybe. You just have an intimate knowledge of what went on and why during the game.

"I'm superstitious (and) we won. We beat Washington, and then we won the next week, and then we won the next week and then we lost against New Orleans, and I was out of there. So, being superstitious, that's why I was in their multiple games. I thoroughly enjoyed it. I also like sitting with my staff, but I'm not the only GM that's ever done that and, again, from an evaluation standpoint, it was really beneficial, so that was the reason behind that."

Schoen said the fact that the Giants were 2-8 when he entered the coaches' booth had nothing to do with his decision.

"We could've been 9-0, and I would've done it," he said. "It's something that I've always wanted to do."

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