Giants linebacker Bobby Okereke, right, and new defensive coordinator Shane...

Giants linebacker Bobby Okereke, right, and new defensive coordinator Shane Bowen. Credit: Mike Stobe; AP

LAS VEGAS — Bobby Okereke didn’t have to wear the helmet with the green dot to receive the first call from his new defensive coordinator.

It came by more traditional means, as Shane Bowen, hired by the Giants to replace Wink Martindale last week, reached out to the middle linebacker who figures to be his voice on the field in the 2024 season. Based on their limited interactions, Okereke said he is “very excited” about how things went.

Speaking on Radio Row at Super Bowl LVIII on Friday, Okereke said what stood out was “how fast we jelled based on the conversation we had. We sat there and talked ball for about 10 minutes, talking to him about my experiences, playing with Matt Eberflus in the Cover-2 system, playing with Gus Bradley in the Cover-3 system and obviously playing with Wink in the blitz-man system.”

Not everyone has gotten the same introduction yet. Linebacker Kayvon Thibodeaux also was on Radio Row and told Newsday earlier in the week that he hadn’t spoken with Bowen but knows a little about his style.

"I know he's about stopping the run, I know he plays a little bit of quarters, I know he's a 3-4 guy," Thibodeaux said. "So I'm excited to see it."

It makes sense that Bowen would make Okereke — a captain in his first year with the Giants after arriving as a free agent, the team’s leading tackler and a player who was on the field for every defensive snap of the 2023 season — a priority.

Okereke said there are “tools” he learned from all of his previous coaches that will apply to the new system, which Bowen ran during his three seasons as defensive coordinator for the Titans (and the three seasons before that as their linebackers coach).

“I think it will be a very good thing,” Okereke said. “That was my experience my first couple of games adjusting to the Wink system. I got to bring a lot of the tools I learned in previous systems and incorporated it into Wink’s system . . .  A lot of the fundamental teachings we had from Wink, that’s ingrained in us, that’s part of our tool belt, and now we can go incorporate it in a different defense with a different play style. It’s only going to help.”

Schematically and philosophically, Okereke said, Bowen’s defense will differ from Martindale’s, which featured aggressive and often exotic blitzing. Don’t expect as much sleight-of-hand from Bowen.

“We’re going to simplify it. Everybody’s going to know exactly what we’re going to do. There’s not going to be too many wrinkles. We’re going to play very fundamentally sound football,” Okereke said. “We’ll probably run a good bit of 3-4, a good bit of 4-3, good bit of quarters, a good bit of Cover-2, Cover-5. So we’re all excited.”

Okereke wasn’t exactly shocked that the Giants made the changes they did to their defensive leadership. Martindale and head coach Brian Daboll parted ways shortly after their second season together ended in what became a very public and combustible relationship that eventually ended in divorce.

“Obviously [we] knew there was some tension there,” Okereke said. “You’ve got two alpha coaches, everyone’s not always going to get along.”

Still, when he left the facility after the regular season ended, Okereke expected to be working with Martindale again next  season.

“Definitely wouldn’t have forecast it that Wink wouldn’t be our coach at the end of the year, but very happy for him to get the Michigan job,” Okereke said.

Martindale was hired this past week to be the defensive coordinator for the national champion Wolverines, and Okereke said he has spoken with him since he left the Giants.

Despite just one season together, Okereke said he and Martindale are going to have “a lifelong relationship.”

Now he’ll have a new relationship with a new coordinator, too.

“And talking to Shane, I’m very excited about it,” he said. “So I think it all works out.”

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