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'Create a new line of scrimmage': Shane Bowen lays out vision for Giants' defense


Shane Bowen is so committed to making life hard for opposing quarterbacks that he does not even use an E-ZPass.

Rather, the former Tennessee Titans defensive coordinator has been stopping at every toll around East Rutherford since the New York Giants hired him to take over the same position. That's two months of making sure he has exact change in his car, which he has temporarily borrowed from coach Brian Daboll.

"I had a few issues here and there," Bowen said recently in a ride-along interview with Shaun O’Hara for

"I'm sure no one honked at you," the former Giants center and Super Bowl champion said with more than a hint of sarcasm. "They're very patient."

"It's chaos," joked Bowen, wearing a gray Yankees hat and blue Giants jacket.

That's precisely what Bowen wants to create for offenses.

"I'm hoping it's going to be speed and aggressiveness," Bowen said of the calling card for his defense. "Regardless of scheme – everybody's going to have scheme, we're going to have plenty of scheme – but I want to make sure our guys are lined up, they know what to do, and they can play fast and aggressive ultimately. I want to maximize their abilities. I don't want to paralyze them before the ball is even snapped by overthinking. They're all here for a reason. God has blessed them with the skillset to be here. I want to make sure we can maximize that skillset and they're able to maximize that skillset. But hopefully [it will be] fast, aggressive, you'll see some violence from us and ultimately guys making plays."

Bowen is coming off his sixth season with the Titans, eighth overall in the NFL. Tennessee promoted him to defensive coordinator in 2021 after he spent his first three seasons as outside linebackers coach.

Last season, Bowen boasted the No. 1 defense in red zone scoring (allowed touchdowns on 37.7 percent of drives inside the 20), goal-to-go scoring (42.9 percent resulting in touchdowns), and third-down conversation rate in the red zone (23.4).

From 2021 to 2023, the Titans surrendered the fewest rushing yards in the NFL (89.7 yards per game) and a league-low 3.70 rushing yards per carry. They allowed 33 rushing touchdowns in that span; only the Ravens and Patriots gave up fewer with 30 apiece. Overall, the Titans allowed 106 touchdowns from scrimmage in Bowen's three seasons as defensive coordinator, the seventh-fewest in the NFL.

"To me, I think it starts with play style, demeanor, what we want to be defensively," Bowen said. "You think run game, you think physicality, you think toughness, and that's what we want to be at all levels. I was blessed with some really good players down there [in Tennessee], no different than we are here, but the guys bought into it. They took ownership of it. And it's unique. It's great to stop the run, but you better be able to affect the quarterback just the same.

"So, finding that balance and just [having] the attacking mentality where we're getting off the ball, trying to play on the other side of the line scrimmage, and then in that regard, if it is a pass, you're already on your way. I think that's something we've kind of progressed to as we went over the past few years of not being as much read-and-react, where we're more going to attack the line of scrimmage and let things play out as it may. You've got guys at the second level, at the third level, who can make those guys up front right a lot of times in the run game. We're going to let those guys go and hopefully we'll be a little bit more aggressive, attacking, and creating a new line of scrimmage and guys fitting off of them."

Bowen isn't the only new transplant from the South at the Quest Diagnostics Training Center.

The Giants, who tied for the fourth-fewest sacks in 2023, kicked off the new league year by acquiring two-time Pro Bowl edge rusher Brian Burns in a trade with the Carolina Panthers. Burns is one of eight players ever to record at least 7.5 sacks in each of his first five seasons (Reggie White, Derrick Thomas, DeMarcus Ware, Jared Allen, Aaron Donald, Ryan Kerrigan, and Yannick Ngakoue).

"The initial thing is the explosiveness," Bowen said of what the 6-foot-5, 250-pound Burns brings to the new-look defense. "Off the ball, his first step is elite now. I think the lateral movement, the athleticism, you see all that. He's a very sudden player. The length, the size – like I didn't realize how big he was until he walked in the building. He's an impressive looking dude, but skillset-wise, being able to pair him up with what we've got with KT [Kayvon Thibodeaux] and obviously Dex [Lawrence] in there being able to push the pocket, I think there are a lot of complements to all those guys when they're going to be in there together."

Bowen added, "I think both [Burns and Thibodeaux] have very unique skillsets and what you're looking for at that position. The size, the length, all that being said, but the suddenness, the athleticism, all those things translate in my mind hopefully to production and being able to play a little bit more on the other side of the line of scrimmage."

Every coordinator, meanwhile, needs a field general.

For Bowen, that will be linebacker Bobby Okereke, whom he saw twice a year in their AFC South days. The former Colt signed with the Giants last offseason and made an immediate impact as a team captain.

"The thing I'm most encouraged by right now is everything I've been hearing about the leadership," Bowen said. "That's something that is huge at that position, having the green dot, making the calls, more so than even the great play that he's going to put on the field and has put on the field. But leadership is number one for me right now. Love the skillset. Love the length. He can navigate the box. I think he's going to be really good in some of the things we're going to ask him to do that maybe he wasn't doing quite as much before. All those things, we're going to make sure we're maximizing all these guys – not just Bobby but hopefully putting those guys in position where they can find success and they're best utilized."

View photos of the newest members of the Giants touring the Quest Diagnostics Training Center for the first time.


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