When the Tampa Bay Buccaneers released Deone Bucannon two weeks ago, it seemed obvious that the New York Giants would — and should — have interest. Bucannon had the best three years of his NFL career playing the ‘Moneybacker’ position for James Bettcher with the Arizona Cardinals.
Bettcher, of course, now has that job with the Giants. And linebacker has been a trouble spot for two seasons on a defense that has been struggling. The Giants reportedly had interest in Bucannon before he signed with Tampa Bay in the offseason.
Bucannon said Wednesday that signing with the Giants when they called this time was a “no-brainer.”
The defense Bettcher is running with the Giants is “very familiar” to him, Bucannon said.
“There are a few different terminologies as far as they just have different words for the same things. Like I said, I’m fortunate enough to get in a system that I understand and I’ll be able to hit the ground running instead of having that extra handicap.”
The Giants appear to be hoping that familiarity will allow Bucannon to get on the field quickly.
“He knows the system enough to get up and running quickly. We’ll try to get him ready to go for this week if we can,” said head coach Pat Shurmur. “he’s tough, he’s physical, he has some familiarity. He played at a high level in Bettch’s (defensive coordinator James Bettcher’s) defense, so we felt like he’d be a good fit. Another guy to add to the inside linebacker group.”
With Bettcher in New York, Bucannon had a career-low 38 tackles for Arizona in 2018. This season, he could not get on the field the Buccaneers, playing only eight defensive snaps in five games before being released.
Bucannon, though, is still just 27 years old.
The Giants have settled in recent weeks on Alec Ogletree and David Mayo at inside linebacker. One of them is likely to lose snaps to Bucannon as the Giants try to find out if the original Moneybacker still has what it takes to be an impact defender.
“I’ll roll with the game plan. It’s the first day, I’m not here to ruffle some feathers, I’m here to be like a puzzle piece — I’m here to fit in, make plays when my name is called upon, and continue maybe to be a guy to voice things to some of the younger players, or maybe even having to listen here to some of the older players, or some of the younger players that can maybe just tell me something about the system or about the atmosphere,” Bucannon said. “It’s my first time in New York, so I’m just looking forward to catching it in stride and doing what I need to do.”
What is a ‘Moneybacker,’ anyway? Here is how Bucannon describes the job:
“Money backer, when you play it, it’s different. A box safety, when they’re covering a lot, they’re outside the box. They do a similar thing, but they’re outside the box, the fit is different. When you’re a money backer, you still have to plug that hole, you have to go against them pulling. The majority of the time you’re a safety, you’re a free hitter. So, when you’re a money backer, you have to be able to plug the gaps, you have to be able to go against the 315-pound guys, and at the same time you have to be able to cover running backs and tight ends. So, you have to understand linebacker fits, but you also have to be able to cover like a safety.”
Bucannon excelled in the role for Bettcher in Arizona. The Giants are anxious to find out if he still has the ability to do that.