Giants 2024 Position Breakdown: Jason Pinnock and company must fill void left by Xavier McKinney

The Giants are coming off a disappointing 6-11 season, looking to again resemble the team that won a playoff game in Minnesota two years ago.

In this series, we’ll break down the depth chart for every position group heading into the 2024 season. This time, we’ll go in-depth at the safeties group…

Projected depth chart

Starters: Jason Pinnock, Dane Belton

Key Backups: Jalen Mills, Tyler Nubin, Elijah Riley, Gervarrius Owens

Key additions/losses: Xavier McKinney signed with Packers, drafted Nubin in second round, signed Mills

Top Performer in 2023: McKinney, with 116 tackles, three interceptions, one forced fumble and two fumble recoveries

What Giants’ safeties have going for them

The Giants suffered a huge loss on the offensive side of the Ball with Saquon Barkley departing for the Eagles. But the defense suffered perhaps as big, if not a bigger loss in seeing Xavier McKinney sign with Green Bay. McKinney was a playmaker on the back end of the Giants defense, and replacing his production will be no easy task.

But what the Giants do have going for them is a lot of options at the safety spot. It seems set in stone that Pinnock will lock down one of the starting spots. Pinnock had a strong 2023 season, starting 16 games with two picks, six pass break-ups, and two forced fumbles.

The other starting spot is probably up for grabs (we’ll dig more into the competition below), but the Giants have an established veteran like Mills, a young up-and-comer like Belton, and a second-round draft pick in Nubin who could all be factors at different times for Big Blue.

Key concern for 2024: Can McKinney's talent be replicated?

McKinney was often the last line of defense for the Giants, roaming in center field and keeping the play in front of him. He had nine interceptions in 49 career games, and he developed into the ballhawk the Giants thought he could be when they drafted him in the second round in 2020.

The Giants took another safety in the second round of this year's draft, selecting Nubin with the No. 47 pick, and they hope he too can develop into a playmaker on the back end. At 6-foot-1, 199 pounds, Nubin's ball skills made him a second-round pick, as he picked off 13 passes during his time at Minnesota.

It might be a lot to ask for a rookie safety to start from Day One, but Nubin certainly has the potential to be a difference-maker

Second round draft pick safety Tyler Nubin as the NY Giants hold their Rookie Camp and introduce their new draft picks

Player who must step up in 2024: Pinnock

With so much uncertainty at the other position spot, the Giants are going to need Pinnock to be a rock. They don't need him to be a superstar, necessarily, but knowing they have at least one trusted safety on the field would be a huge sigh of relief.

Pinnock started his career as a corner with the Jets, but he's transitioned well to the safety spot, and the Giants will need his stability in his aged 25 season.

Biggest camp battle: Belton vs. Nubin vs. Mills

This is where things get interesting. Belton has seven career starts at safety. Nubin is an unproven rookie. Mills is a ninth-year veteran who has transitioned from corner to safety. The odds are that one of these three will be a starter in Week 1, it just depends on who fits best into Shane Bowen's scheme.
Perhaps Mills is best suited in a hybrid role where he can step in as a slot corner or a safety, which would narrow the focus to Belton and Nubin. The guess here is Belton has the edge as the starter right now, but it's fair to think that Nubin will be pushing for that spot.

Overall 2024 outlook

Out of all the positions on the Giants' defense, safety is the spot with the most question marks. The Giants are going to have a young cornerback group, so the question will be whether or not they keep that theme of youth at the safety spot and start Nubin, or if they want a veteran like Mills to be a leader in the secondary.

There are sure to be some growing pains with McKinney now out of the picture, but there's reason to be optimistic about this current group.