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Nick McCloud’s move to safety offers intrigue in Giants’ defensive backfield

It’s easy to overlook McCloud in the Giants’ defensive hierarchy

New York Giants v Philadelphia Eagles
Nick McCloud
Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images

The New York Giants' defense struggled so much in 2022 that it’s easy to write off any player who was a part of it. However, Nick McCloud did a solid job in the role that the Giants gave him, holding down the fort at the cornerback position to avert disaster. In 2023, he will perhaps play a different position on the team, which makes his possible usage even more interesting.

By the numbers

Height: 6-foot-1
Weight: 190
Age: 24
Position: Safety (converting from cornerback)
Experience: 2
Contract: two years, $1.765 million | 2023 cap hit: $940,000

Career to date

McCloud played his first four college seasons at NC State. In his freshman year, he had 13 tackles and three pass breakups over six games. In 2017, his playing time increased to all 12 games, and he recorded 34 total tackles, seven pass breakups, and an interception. As a junior, he played in 11 games and had 51 combined tackles, eight pass breakups, two interceptions, and a fumble recovery.

As a senior, McCloud missed 10 games due to an MCL sprain. He then decided to transfer to Notre Dame for his redshirt senior season. He was named to the All-ACC third team after recording 33 total tackles, two tackles for loss, eight pass breakups, an interception, and two fumble recoveries. He then declared for the NFL Draft.

McCloud went undrafted in 2021 and signed with the Bills as a free agent. He was waived shortly before the season, though, and was claimed by the Bengals. McCloud was active for two games with Cincinnati, seeing 24 total snaps. He was then waived by the Bengals and re-claimed by Buffalo, who assigned him to their practice squad. They released him in August 2022, and the Giants claimed him the next day.

In 2022, McCloud appeared in 14 games for the Giants, including eight starts. He recorded 43 total tackles, two tackles for loss, seven pass breakups, two quarterback hits, and 1.5 sacks. Pro Football Focus gave him an overall grade of 67.0, including 71.4 in run defense, 86.4 as a tackler, and 64.6 in coverage.

McCloud also played 200 special teams snaps split between kick and punt returns, coverage, and field goal blocks. He posted an 80.2 special teams grade, recording four tackles and getting called for one penalty.

2023 outlook

McCloud was seen working with the safeties in OTAs and minicamp. He appears to be transitioning to the position full-time. How the Giants will use him is unknown since with the move to safety he’ll have significant positional versatility.

In college, McCloud was used almost exclusively as an outside cornerback, but the Giants already moved him around a significant amount in 2022. Of his 537 defensive snaps, he played 257 at outside corner (47.9%), but he also had 132 at slot corner (24.6%) and 123 in the box (22.9%). Does this foretell a role primarily playing in the box and slot?

McCloud’s sure-handed tackling could certainly be a plus at the safety position, as he missed just one tackle (2.6% rate) in 2022. He posted an 86.4 PFF tackling grade along with a solid 71.4 run defense grade, which ranked 20th out of 69 qualified cornerbacks (min. 225 run defense snaps).

McCloud’s strong special teams play makes it highly likely that he will be on the 53-man roster. His conversion to safety may have something to do with the abundance of cornerbacks (Adoree’ Jackson, Deonte Banks, Cor’Dale Flott, Aaron Robinson, Darnay Holmes, Amani Oruwariye, Tre Hawkins III) or his own skillset that could translate well to the position.

The Giants also have somewhat of a logjam at safety, with Xavier McKinney, Bobby McCain, Jason Pinnock, and Dane Belton all vying for playing time. Pinnock and Belton are also good special teamers, which could leave McCain on the outside looking in. However, if McCain does make the roster, that could cut into McCloud’s playing time.

There will be many fascinating positional battles to follow this training camp. Safety is one of them. McCloud’s switch to the position is something to monitor.