Giants’ 2nd-year safety primed to take on starting job

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New York Giants safety Dane Belton (24) picks up a Carolina Panthers fumble on the opening kick return in the first half of an NFL game at MetLife Stadium on Sunday, Sept. 18, 2022, in East Rutherford. Nfl Ny Giants Vs Carolina Panthers Panthers At Giants

The New York Giants were left with a hole in their secondary following the departure of starting safety Julian Love in free agency. Love started the full season for the Giants at strong safety. Without Love, New York may need to rely on second-year player Dane Belton to step up and take the starting job.

Dane Belton could start for the Giants in 2023

The Giants drafted Belton in the third round of the 2022 NFL Draft. As a rookie, Belton appeared in 15 games during the regular season after missing much of the summer with an injury. The Iowa product suffered a broken collarbone during training camp that kept him sidelined for the entirety of the preseason.

Belton was described as “a young, ascending ball hawk on the back end” during the pre-draft process. During his junior season at Iowa, Belton totaled five interceptions and seven passes defended. His play-making ways continue into his regular season.

Despite seeing minimal playing time in the Giants’ defense last season, Belton was able to nab two interceptions, breakup three passes, and recover three fumbles. He may not have been on the field much, but whenever he was, Belton consistently found himself around the football.

Belton’s 31 combined tackles also demonstrate his ability to get involved against the run. He missed only three tackles as a rookie and didn’t allow a single touchdown in coverage.

Entering the 2023 season, New York is in need of a second starter on the backend. Xavier McKinney will continue to man the free safety spot in which he has excelled the past few years. But, opposite of McKinney, the strong safety role is anyones for the taking. Belton could be the man for the job.

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Belton was on the field for just 39% of the Giants’ defensive snaps in 2022. Despite his lack of playing time, the young defensive back was able to get his hands on the football a few times and make some big plays in coverage and run defense.

Entering his second season, if Belton is able to stay healthy throughout the summer and participate in the preseason, he should find himself more prepared to take on a larger role in the regular season. A good summer of practices could propel Belton into the starting safety job opposite of McKinney.