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

dane belton, giants, iowa

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

The New York Giants have a position battle brewing at safety

New York Giants, Julian Love

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.

Two Giants Mid-Round Rookies projected as Day One Starters

daniel bellinger, giants

Entering the 2022 offseason, the New York Giants lacked depth and talent on their roster. New general manager Joe Schoen had the tall task of managing the Giants’ tight salary cap while acquiring talent. It seems he has done just that, especially with his first draft class as the team’s GM. Schoen and the Giants had the luxury of two top-ten draft selections in the first round of this year’s draft. New York was nearly guaranteed to walk away with two day-one starters in the first round. But the draft does not end after round one, and hitting on mid-round draft picks was crucial for the Giants. So far, it looks so good, as two mid-round rookies are being projected as surprising day-one starters: tight end Daniel Bellinger and defensive back Dane Belton.

The Giants revamped their roster this offseason, releasing and letting go of starting players on both sides of the ball. New York let starting tight end Evan Engram walk in free agency while cutting both of his backups in Kyle Rudolph and Kaden Smith. This left a major need at the tight end position for the Giants this offseason, and it looks like they filled that need in the fourth round of this year’s draft. The Giants drafted tight end Daniel Bellinger out of Sand Diego State with the 112th pick in the 2022 NFL Draft. It is unusual to find a starter that late in the draft, but after 10 days of OTAs, it appears Bellinger is in line to roll out with the first team.

Dane Belton, rookie safety out of Iowa, also seems like he could be starting in September. The Giants drafted Belton two picks after Bellinger at 114 overall. Like Daniel Bellinger, Dane Belton is also turning heads as a potential starter during OTAs. It would be extraordinary if Joe Schoen did indeed manage to land two starters in the fourth round of this year’s draft.

Daniel Bellinger and Dane Belton practicing with the first team

An interesting storyline developing at Giants’ OTAs is the emergence of the team’s two fourth-round draft picks. According to Zack Rosenblatt of NJ.com, Dane Belton and Daniel Bellinger “have already emerged as possible Day 1 starters.”

Daniel Bellinger could be the Giants’ starting tight end this season

Daniel bellinger has been taking practice reps with the first team despite other veteran tight ends being healthy and competing for the position:

Thursday, Bellinger got the majority of the reps with the first-team offense ahead of veterans Ricky Seals-Jones and Jordan Akins, and he’s been a favorite target of Jones’ throughout OTAs. Where some rookies have been getting first-team reps in part because of injuries to others — including Belton — both Seals-Jones and Akins are healthy and practicing. – Zack Rosenblatt of NJ.com

Dane Belton taking first team reps at Giants OTAs

Dane Belton is a versatile player with the ability to line up at multiple defensive positions. He has done exactly that at OTAs, surprisingly receiving reps with the first team in practice.

Belton’s first-team reps on Thursday were a bit more of a surprise — though understandable considering his versatility and the absence of some defensive backs. Cornerbacks Aaron Robinson and Holmes, plus safety Jarren Williams didn’t participate.

But projected safety starters Xavier McKinney and Julian Love did — and Belton was out there anyway. Belton lined up as a third safety for much of the afternoon, and even was out there when Love or McKinney would sub out too. McKinney is locked in as a starter, but Love has mostly been a backup in his career anyway and this coaching staff didn’t draft him — they picked Belton. – Zack Rosenblatt of NJ.com

Should Daniel Bellinger and Dane Belton start for the Giants as rookies?

It is unusual to see fourth-round draft picks enter the NFL as day-one starters, but it is not impossible. Daniel Bellinger and Dane Belton are talented players and they both play positions where the Giants lack depth.

Daniel Bellinger could be the Giants’ starting tight end this season. The San Diego State product is as sure-handed as they come and appears to be a perfect fit in Brian Daboll and Mike Kafka’s offensive scheme. Bellinger averaged 14.5 yards after the catch per reception, which ranked first of the prospects in the 2022 NFL Draft class (PFF). Daniel Bellinger is also a willing blocker and a secure catcher. He had 0 dropped passes in the 2021 season to go along with a 4.2% drop rate for his entire collegiate career.

Dane Belton is a superior athlete. His relative athletic score (RAS) was an elite 9.41 after an impressive day of athletic testing at the Scouting Combine. Belton ran a 4.43s 40-yard dash with a blazing-fast 1.49s 10-yard split. The versatile defensive back has the straight-line speed to make the break on passes and make plays. Making plays is what Dane Belton was all about during his collegiate career. He totaled 5 interceptions and 7 passes defended in 2021. The Giants may have found a gem in Dane Belton.

Did the New York Giants uncover a gem in fourth-round pick Dane Belton?

dane belton, giants, iowa

The New York Giants lost a number of key pieces in their secondary this offseason. Three starters in the Giants’ 2021 defensive backfield have moved on to new teams. The Giants have attempted to supplement these losses through the 2022 NFL Draft. New York drafted two defensive backs in this year’s draft, including a potential “gem” in fourth-round pick Dane Belton.

Pro Football Focus recently named Dane Belton the Giants’ “Biggest Draft Gem” from their 2022 class. New York selected the Iowa safety in the fourth round with the 114th overall pick in the draft. Dane Belton is a playmaker that lined up in a variety of positions for Iowa’s defense. New York Giants defensive coordinator will need to move Belton around his defense to maximize the rookie’s skill set and potential.

What Dane Belton is bringing to the Giants

Dane Belton is also a superior athlete. His relative athletic score (RAS) was an elite 9.41 after an impressive day of athletic testing at the Scouting Combine. Belton ran a 4.43s 40-yard dash with a blazing-fast 1.49s 10-yard split. The versatile defensive back has the straight-line speed to make the break on passes and make plays.

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. In the NFL, Dane Belton should see early playing time on special teams. His role defensively, though, would likely be as a nickel safety.

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

Dane Belton’s skill set is similar to that of Giants defensive back Julian Love. Both players have the ability to line up just about anywhere in the secondary. Belton could potentially serve as an upgrade to Love, though. lt will be an interesting summer as training camp should ultimately determine which of the two players sees more playing time in the regular season.