The New York Giants have a position battle brewing at safety

New York Giants, Julian Love
Sep 27, 2020; East Rutherford, New Jersey, USA; San Francisco 49ers wide receiver Brandon Aiyuk (11) fights for yards after catch as New York Giants free safety Julian Love (20) and inside linebacker Blake Martinez (54) tackle during the second half at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Giants have a few position battles brewing in the secondary, notably at strong safety and cornerback. With James Bradberry being released and signing with the Philadelphia Eagles, the CB2 position opposite Adoree Jackson is up for grabs. In addition, with the release of Logan Ryan, strong safety has an opening that could be filled by veteran Julian Love or rookie Dane Belton.

So far this off-season, Love has been getting the majority of reps with the first team given his experience, but Belton fits Wink Martindale’s defensive strategy to perfection. Belton is an aggressive safety who plays shallow zone coverage in the nickel role but also blitzes the quarterback and delivers hard hits at the second level.

Love, though, understands exactly what Wink is looking for, a reflection of himself.

“This defense is going to reflect who Wink is as a person,” Love told The Post. “He really doesn’t care what people think of him. He’s going to do it his way, but not in an in-your-face, my-way-or-the-highway way. He lets guys be creative and have the keys to the defense. But our mindset and mentality will be that we’re going to go out on our terms and make these dudes feel it. So far, it’s been really fun.”

Love enjoyed 612 total snaps last season, posting great tackling metrics and good coverage capabilities. He allowed 352 yards and three scores, which isn’t awe-inspiring. At the very least, Love isn’t a liability in coverage and can play multiple positions, including strong safety, free safety, slot corner, and boundary corner. That type of versatility is extremely valuable for a coordinator, but this might be his first opportunity to start at the NFL level if he can fend off Belton.

“I keep thinking about what my role and responsibility is. I’m a big proponent that everything happens for a reason. That resiliency I’ve had to have the past few years is only going to make me a better player this year. I’m trying to raise my game a lot this year by still letting the game to me, most importantly. But you know where I’m coming from: I have to keep that chip on my shoulder.”

Dane Belton has a chance at landing a starting safety role:

The Giants drafted Dane Belton in the 4th round of the 2022 NFL draft. Out of Iowa, Belton produced great turnover numbers, tallying five interceptions last season in a hybrid “cash” role.

“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.

That type of versatility is why Martindale and the Giants decided to draft him with one of their mid-round picks. In addition, he’s a hard-hitting safety with plenty of upside at 6’1″ and 205 pounds. Posting a 4.43 40-yard dash, he has solid straight line speed. He needs to refine his instincts in the safety position, but the Giants have him playing in the strong safety role. They can mitigate a lot of his coverage flaws to start his career.