Can rookie Dane Belton steal a starting spot in the New York Giants secondary?

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The New York Giants have a few interesting battles brewing ahead of training camp. New general manager Joe Schoen has stepped in and quickly overturned the roster to rebuild toward a brighter future. One of the position groups that was most significantly changed was the defensive secondary. The Giants lost multiple starters in the secondary, including safeties Jabrill Peppers and Logan Ryan and cornerback James Bradberry. In turn, they added a couple of young bucks through the draft, like Cor’Dale Flott (CB, LSU) and Dane Belton (DB, Iowa). Dane Belton is a rookie that could surprise and steal a starting spot this season on the Giants’ defense.

The Giants drafted Dane Belton in the fourth round of this year’s draft. Belton played a lot of nickel cornerback in college and filled a “cash” role as a hybrid linebacker/safety. Xavier McKinney will be one of the Giants’ starting safeties in 2022, but there is a position battle brewing at the other safety position. Dane Belton is one of the players that could be competing for that role.

Dane Belton could compete for a starting spot in the Giants’ secondary

Dane Belton will be competing with Julian Love for one of the Giants’ starting safety spots. He could steal this position, or he could also steal the nickel corner spot. It is a crowded room in the slot as Aaron Robinson, Cor’Dale Flott, Darnay Holmes, and Dane Belton are all in the mix.

Where Dane Belton has an edge over the rest of the slot cornerbacks he is competing with is his ability to play all over the defense. Belton is incredibly versatile:

“In our base defense [at Iowa], I played a 2-high safety but any time the offense came out in 11 personnel, 10 personnel, basically passing formation, I went down to a nickel what we call cash, and really just a versatile player that has to guard slot receivers and play in the box, blitz off the edge, doing multiple things,” Belton said.

New defensive coordinator Wink Martindale loves to get creative with his blitz packages. Defensive backs and linebackers alike will be involved in pressuring the quarterback. This scheme could put Belton on the field frequently.

Pro Football Focus named Dane Belton the Giants’ “Biggest Draft Gem” from their 2022 class. Making plays is what Dane Belton was all about during his collegiate career. He totaled 5 interceptions and 7 passes defended in 2021. Belton was constantly popping up around the football, being a pest to opposing quarterbacks.

Where does Dane Belton fit in the Giants’ defense?

In all likelihood, Dane Belton will begin his career on special teams. But he should see plenty of playing time when the Giants’ defense calls for nickel personnel. Playing as a safety in the slot is where Dane Belton will fit best in the New York Giants’ defense.

Playing as Iowa’s “cash” defender, Belton thrived as a slot safety, allowing a 66.0 passer rating across 315 coverage snaps. He packs a powerful punch at 6-foot-1 and has shown an ability to thrive in a zone coverage slot role when given the opportunity (89.4 zone coverage grade in 2021). – Pro Football Focus on Dane Belton

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