As the New York Giants navigate the second year of their rebuilding phase, the expectation is that their draft picks from the past two years will start to contribute significantly.
In April, the team added several potential impact players to the roster. Both the secondary and the offense are on the brink of significant advancement, thanks in part to the acquisitions of Jalin Hyatt and John Michael-Schmitz.
However, the Giants’ 2022 draft class was beleaguered by injuries, which hindered their development. One such player was safety Dane Belton from Iowa, who is known for his hard-hitting run-stopping capabilities and good zone coverage skills.
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The Giants are hoping for a big step forward from Dane Belton:
Belton, 22, only started in five games, but he made 15 appearances, gathering two interceptions and 31 combined tackles with three passes defended.
At 6’1″ and 205 pounds, the former fourth-round pick also recovered two fumbles, demonstrating his knack for locating the football. However, despite making an impact in certain areas, Belton occasionally struggled with coverage and positioning in run defense.
Most of his challenges could be traced back to a broken clavicle he suffered during training camp. Despite the injury, Belton persevered, determined to contribute however he could. Now returning to full health this off-season, Belton aims to make a substantial leap in his development.
“That’s definitely my goal to come out and earn that spot,” Belton said on the One Giant Step podcast. “We have a lot of guys that can play really well; a lot of guys that understand the defense and can make plays.”
Belton spent 137 snaps in the box as a strong safety and 144 snaps at free safety. His equal split was due to Xavier McKinney’s finger fractures, which caused him to miss a considerable amount of time, necessitating Belton to fill in alongside Julian Love.
With McKinney’s return to full fitness, Belton can now compete for the starting strong safety spot, a competition he’s prepared to win.
“My mindset is always to be the best out there regardless of who’s out there,” he said. “Once I’m fully healthy and coming back in training camp, that’s going to be my goal to earn that spot and to make plays for this defense.”
The Giants signed reserve Bobby McCain to supplement Julian Love’s utility value, as Love has now inked a long-term deal with the Seattle Seahawks. The team also has rookie Gervarrius Owens from Houston and Jason Pinnock, a player they picked up from the New York Jets practice squad following the 2022 preseason.
Despite the competition, Belton holds an edge as he is a draft selection of Joe Schoen and Brian Daboll. However, he’ll have to outperform an experienced McCain to secure the starting position.