The New York Giants signed former Indianapolis Colts inside linebacker Bobby Okereke to help solidify the interior on the second level of their defense.
They think highly of the former Stanford star, enough to invest $40 million in him over the next four years.
Okereke, 27, signed with Giants because he sees himself getting more opportunities to do what he does best as an off-ball linebacker, plus rushing the passer more under defensive coordinator Wink Martindale’s scheme.
On Monday, Okereke was asked if he could be the answer to the Giants’ middle linebacker woes the past few seasons.
“I just think I’m a good addition to the group,” he said. “Obviously, just trying to push everybody and make it a very competitive group, competitive training camp. Hopefully we just can contribute to this team as best we can.”
“Bobby O has been a good addition,” said head coach Brian Daboll. “He’s got good length, speed, practices hard. I think someone asked about his leadership. He’s done good in that regard. He’s been playing both spots. Someone asked about that as well. We’ll see where it goes.”
Okereke is going to be a starter inside, but who will line up next to him on the base defense is still to be determined.
The top candidates to replace injured veteran Jarrad Davis are two second-year players, Micah McFadden and Darrian Beavers.
McFadden was the only Giants draft pick to play in all 17 games last year, starting seven. He lost his spot to Davis, a late-season free-agent add.
Beavers tore his ACL in Week 2 of the preseason and was lost for the season but is back this summer participating in camp.
Daboll told reporters that Beavers was on a “pitch count” in camp while he rehabs the knee but continues to spin positive about the former University of Cincinnati standout.
“Still a young player, still has a ways to go,” said Daboll. “He’s done a good job since he’s been out here. Obviously fighting through that rehab and now getting an opportunity, he’s done some nice things.”
Okereke also likes what he has seen in Beavers since arriving back in March.
“He’s a big, athletic guy (6-foot-4, 255 pounds) that’s very physical and can run. He’s got smooth hips. He’s a really good athlete.”
Beavers told reporters earlier that stopping the run is the priority at inside linebacker. Okereke agreed.
“100 percent,” he said, while also adding that stopping the run was the strength of his game. But Okereke knows it will take a village to get the job done.
“It takes 11 guys to do their own job at the same time,” he said. “But also, once you fit your gap, go be a football player and tackle the ball. It takes that dogmatic mentality to go make the tackles, but you also have to do your one-of-11. Stay in your A-gap, stay in your B-gap, set the edge. It takes everybody.”
The Giants allowed 5.2 yards per attempt on the ground in 2022, second-highest in the NFL. Okereke and whoever plays next to him will have their work cut out for them.