Giants preparing for an unexpected position battle at strong safety

dane belton, new york giants
Nov 13, 2022; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; New York Giants safety Dane Belton (24) intercepts a pass intended for Houston Texans wide receiver Phillip Dorsett (4) as cornerback Adoree' Jackson (22) helps during a game at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Giants have a hole in their defensive backfield following the departure of safety Julian Love earlier this offseason. New York will need to establish a new starter at the strong safety position this summer. As they move toward mandatory minicamp and training camp, an unexpected position battle is brewing for the Giants’ strong safety job.

Giants having a position battle at strong safety

Xavier McKinney will maintain his role as the starting free safety on the Giants’ defense. But who will start alongside him at strong safety is the question.

Dane Belton stands out as the frontrunner for the starting job. The second-year defensive back made five starts in 2022, totaling 31 combined tackles and two interceptions in 15 games. Belton’s versatility will allow him to compete for the strong safety job, possessing skills that allow him to stop the run in the box.

Competing with Belton, though, is veteran defensive back Bobby McCain. The 29-year-old is entering his ninth season in the league after signing with the Giants earlier this offseason. McCain played in all 17 games and totaled 76 combined tackles for the Washington Commanders in 2022. He has impressive coverage skills, however, McCain has played the free safety role throughout his career and has minimal experience at strong safety.

Seventh-round rookie Gervarrius Owens could also throw his name into the running. However, Owens was a four-year starter in Houston’s defense as a free safety. He has great coverage instincts and ball skills. But where Owens struggles is in the run game as a tackler. This weakness will make a transition to strong safety difficult in his rookie year.

Ultimately, McKinney may have to play with a rotation of defensive backs alongside him. Defensive coordinator Wink Martindale emplores a “position-less” defensive scheme, creating opportunities for every defensive back to sneak their way onto the field at one point or another. In all likelihood, Belton, McCain, and Owens will all see significant playing time during the regular season.