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Can Giants’ safety Dane Belton make a more noticeable impact in his second season?

Belton seeks to recover from a poor rookie season

Houston Texans v New York Giants
Dane Belton
Photo by Cooper Neill/Getty Images

The New York Giants addressed many holes on their team this offseason, but safety arguably was not one of them. With Julian Love leaving for Seattle, veteran Bobby McCain was the lone newcomer of import, which is a definite downgrade. If the Giants can get something more from their 2022 fourth-round pick, Dane Belton, that could help fortify a position of concern. There is a long way to go for the sophomore to get to that point, though.

By the numbers

Height: 6-foot-1
Weight: 205
Age: 22
Position: Safety
Experience: 1
Contract: second year of four-year, $4,444,492 rookie deal | $784,492 guaranteed at signing | 2023 cap hit: $1,066,123

Career to date

The Giants drafted Belton with the 114th pick in the 2022 NFL Draft. Many regarded the selection as an overdraft, as he was generally regarded as a sixth-round prospect. Belton entered the NFL coming off a junior year at Iowa in which he posted 46 tackles, three for loss, seven pass breakups, and five interceptions, which earned him first-team All-Big Ten honors.

Belton played 15 games as a rookie, starting five of them. He recorded 31 total tackles, one for loss, three pass breakups, two interceptions, two fumble recoveries, and a quarterback hit. He played almost the same number of snaps deep and in the box, mixing in some reps at slot corner and even a handful at wide corner and along the defensive line. He also logged 143 special teams snaps.

Pro Football Focus did not look kindly upon Belton’s 2022 season, as they gave him a 30.6 overall defensive grade, including 28.9 in run defense, 40.0 in coverage, and 47.2 in pass rush. His saving grace was his tackling, which earned a 71.3 grade. Still, that overall grade was dead-last among 85 qualified safeties (minimum 375 defensive snaps) by a lot.

Belton’s 9.4% missed tackle rate ranked 27th, which was above average for the position. Ironically, his 56.4 quarterback rating against was the third-best, which would seem to indicate that he covered well. However, his 12.1 yards per reception allowed was tied for the second-worst, and his 4% forced incompletion rate was tied for the 11th-worst. The quarterback rating had to do with his two interceptions but not how he covered the rest of the time.

2023 outlook

With the Giants’ lack of quality depth at safety, Belton’s roster spot is likely secure. However, Jason Pinnock figures to play a much larger role as a backup safety than Belton considering their respective performance last season.

The team did draft Gervarrius Owens in the seventh round and also has Trenton Thompson, but Belton has a leg up on both of them because of his draft billing. Still, on a team that has playoff aspirations, Belton will need to improve his all-around game to avoid being bypassed.