July 22, 2024

Giants DC breaks down plan for versatile defender

The Giants took a flier on Isaiah Simmons last year, trading a seventh-round pick to the Cardinals to acquire him in August. The former first-rounder has struggled to find a permanent role in the NFL, but his debut season in New York was sufficient to land him a new deal.

Simmons re-signed on a one-year deal featuring $1.4M guaranteed in April after logging a part-time defensive role with the Giants. Seeing a 33% snap share under Don Martindale, the 25-year-old recorded 50 tackles, three pass deflections and one each in the sack, interception and forced fumble departments. The Giants have since moved on from Martindale, though, bringing in Shane Bowen as his replacement.

When speaking about how Simmons will be used in 2024, Bowen indicated he will be used as a nickel back on first and second downs. On third downs, by contrast, the Clemson alum will shift to what Bowen termed a ‘money’ position (h/t ESPN’s Jordan Raanan). Simmons began his career as a linebacker before Arizona shifted him to safety. If Bowen’s plan unfolds as currently set up, he will continue to be used in a fluid manner while trying to find a long-term home in the NFL.

Elsewhere on the Giants’ defense, the safety position is one to watch. Xavier McKinney‘s free-agent departure created a vacancy in the starting lineup, one which Dane Belton could fill in 2024. The latter has made 32 appearances and seven starts to date, posting two interceptions in each of his first two years in the league. New York selected Tyler Nubin in the second round of the draft, however, providing the team with another option for first-team responsibilities.

Nubin was considered by many to be the top safety in this year’s class, but Ryan Dunleavy of the New York Post writes Belton was ahead of him on the depth chart during spring practices. Plenty of clarity will emerge for many position battles during padded practices in training camp, of course. For the time being, though, Belton has a leg up in the competition. Maintaining that advantage would be key for the 23-year-old considering he will be eligible for an extension after the 2024 season.

New York struggled in a number of defensive categories last season, although the team’s pass defense (19th in yards allowed through the air) fared better. Still, Bowen and Co. will aim for improvement in 2024, and Simmons along with the winner of the Belton-Nubin competition will have notable roles in that effort. They will be among the players to watch closely as training camp unfolds.