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Giants stacked up in the middle of the defense

Damon Harrison of the Giants signals after a

Damon Harrison of the Giants signals after a penalty call against the Seahawks at MetLife Stadium on Oct. 22, 2017. Credit: Mike Stobe

Think, for a moment, about a quarterback’s line of sight as he steps under center against the Giants defense and looks straight ahead. There, snarling just a few feet away from him, is All-Pro nose tackle Damon Harrison. Behind him, reading the offensive setup and making adjustments, is All-Pro middle linebacker Alec Ogletree. And if he can see beyond those two, the quarterback can catch a glimpse of All-Pro safety Landon Collins patrolling the secondary.

All of that, and he doesn’t even have to turn his head.

They say good baseball teams are built to be strong up the middle with catchers, shortstops and centerfielders. The Giants seem to have borrowed that philosophy of team architecture given just how much defensive talent they figure to have between the hashmarks this coming season.

Not only have the Giants stacked up those players one on top of the other as the spinal cord of their defense, there is reason to believe they will all make each other better. That they can line them up single file only makes them that much more imposing.

“I think all three of those guys can still play at the highest levels of their careers,” defensive coordinator James Bettcher said during minicamp. “Shoot, that’s one of the reasons you want to run this defense and have a chance to coach this defense.”

For years the Giants’ defense had a strength that came from the outside. It’s a tradition that started with Lawrence Taylor and followed with Michael Strahan and Justin Tuck and Osi Umenyiora. This crew’s personality appears to be more vertical with a column of stars at each of the three levels forming a tent pole to support the rest of the unit.

The most symbiotic relationship may be between Harrison and Ogletree, and they’re already appreciating what each can do for the other.

“He comes downhill, man, and that’s something you can appreciate as a nose tackle and a defensive tackle,” Harrison said of Ogletree. “That means those centers and those guards have got to make decisions really fast . . . I’m just excited to get in an actual game with him because I know those guys on the line, they have to respect what he brings to the field, so that should open up a lot for me.”

And what can Harrison do for Ogletree?

“It’ll be a lot cleaner,” the linebacker said. “He can hold a double-team, or split them if he can make the play . . . He’s definitely one of the players that I’m excited to play behind, for sure.”

Ogletree spent the beginning of his career with the Rams and the last few seasons playing behind another All-Pro tackle, Aaron Donald. While Donald brought a lot to the field, the one thing he’s never had is mass. At 6 feet and 284 pounds, he’s about three inches shorter and 70 pounds lighter than Harrison.

“It’s going to be different from playing behind Aaron Donald to Snacks now, for sure,” Ogletree said, laughing. “But like I said, I’m definitely excited to play behind him. I think he’s going to be really good for us and this defense, and hopefully I can return the favor.”

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