EAST RUTHERFORD — B.J. Goodson is back on the practice field for the Giants.
So is his reflection.
Goodson earned the starting middle (MIKE) linebacker position entering his second NFL season, but he missed nine games due to nagging injuries and finished the 2017 season on injured reserve. He returned to a differently constructed lineup during minicamp last month.
The Giants switched from a 4-3 to a 3-4 defense under new defensive coordinator James Bettcher and traded two draft picks for inside linebacker Alec Ogletree.
“We’re both true MIKE linebackers,” Goodson said, “so it’s just fun to be out there communicating with him. It’s like me having (another) me. I enjoy having him here.”
Because the middle linebacker typically calls out defensive signals for the front seven, the Giants could have two alpha dogs. It is unclear who will wear the headset for the Giants in 2018.
Longtime NFL Draft scout Dave Te’ Thomas said on the Scout’s Honor podcast Rams defensive coordinator Wade Phillips and defensive end Connor Barwin told him wearing the headset and thinking detracted from Ogletree’s playmaking ability. Goodson wore the headset for the Giants.
“There’s two MIKEs with one mic,” Goodson said, smiling at his play on words but declining to reveal a solution. “We’ll share a lot of the same responsibilities.”
A fourth-round pick out of Clemson in 2016, Goodson was asked to replace the unsigned Kelvin Sheppard despite playing mostly special teams as a rookie. He set the tempo during offseason workouts and even convinced the Giants not to pursue veteran free agent Gerald Hodges.
Goodson recorded 18 tackles in the season-opener, but it went downhill from there as he battled injuries to his shin and ankle. The Giants eventually re-signed Sheppard in November.
“I feel great,” Goodson said. “It was very frustrating, for the most part, not being able to finish with the guys I started with. But last year was last year. I love what we are doing. I love what Coach Bettch has brought. I don’t like to speak in predictions, but I like the direction things are headed.”
Ogletree, a former first-round pick, had at least 111 tackles in each of his first three full seasons, excluding when he played just four games in 2015. But the Rams switched from a 4-3 to a 3-4 defense last season and Olgetree reportedly made a slow adjustment, making him expendable.
Goodson can help Ogletree get familiar with returning linebackers coach Bill McGovern. Ogletree can return the favor with a year’s worth of knowledge on managing the 3-4 transition.
“You can tell he loves ball,” Ogletree said. “He definitely has the attributes and the physical part of it, and now it’s just about doing a little bit more mental. He’s taking the steps day-by-day just like the rest of us, and he’s going to be a great linebacker, for sure, in this league.”
Ogletree also appreciates the extra set of middle linebacker-trained eyes as calls go around the horn of the defense, front-to-back, back-to-front and side-to-side.
“You have to learn the terminology and get everybody lined up. As a linebacker you basically have to be an extension of the coordinator,” Ogletree said. “There is communication going all over the place. Each coordinator is different in the sense of how they want stuff to be communicated.”
The Giants did not draft an inside linebacker, which is a quiet vote of confidence for Goodson and Ogletree as well as top backups Ray-Ray Armstrong, Mark Herzlich and Calvin Munson.
“It’s definitely aggressive,” Goodson said of the new defense. “It’s a pretty straightforward scheme. It allows us to play fast and be able to communicate easily as we learn the new verbiage.”
The Giants only have had two Pro Bowl linebackers in the 2000s: Jessie Armstead and Antonio Pierce. Both were true middle linebackers playing a 4-3.
Those days are over. Is the Pro Bowl drought next to disappear?
“When you’ve got guys like that that can match up on the back end and then also rush the passer in the front end,” Ogletree said, “it definitely calls for a great defense and an aggressive style.”