With the New York Giants’ record now at 2-5, will defensive coordinator James Bettcher finally move on from veteran safety, Antoine Bethea?
Antoine Bethea has turned in a truly admirable career – to go from a sixth-round project draft pick out of Howard University, to a 14-year NFL professional (with three pro bowl appearances) is no easy task. However, the rubber has met the road in terms of his (short) New York Giants career, and it’s painfully obvious that the team needs to move on from the 35-year-old.
If we were dealing with a team in the middle of a playoff hunt – that badly needed leadership – then maybe trotting out an over the hill veteran to oversee the back end of the defense would make sense – that is so far from the case, though. While there are surely numerous other players on this Big Blue defense that have played worse than Bethea, most of those players are young and still offer value to this franchise – Bethea does not.
Dave Gettleman invested a fourth-round draft pick in former Notre Dame star Julian Love in the off-season (in what was considered a steal at the time), and then spent a majority of training camp and the pre-season attempting to transition him into a new position (free safety). For reasons unbeknownst to the rest of us, Love has struggled to find the field in any capacity, having yet to play more than five defensive snaps in any game this season.
In addition, Bettcher and the Giants turned to a familiar face this week when they signed safety/linebacker hybrid Deone Bucannon off the street, in an attempt to see if the 27-year-old had some of what he showed earlier in his career left in the tank. Bucannon represents an interesting ‘chess piece’ of sorts, as Bettcher could get creative and have quarterbacks actually have to think about who is playing where when he’s on the field.
I really don’t care which one of them ends up commanding Bethea’s snaps (the veteran has played a staggeringly-high 97% of team defensive snaps in 2019), but that needs to start happening this weekend, in Detroit. In a perfect world, Bettcher would find a way for both of them to absorb some of the mammoth snap count, or be even more creative and get them both onto the field at the same time.
The defenses biggest struggles this season have come at linebacker and free safety, so integrating two young players that could turn those fortunes makes all the sense in the world. In a league where we are commonly seeing three and four wide receivers on the field all game long, doesn’t it seem obvious that you’d want as many defenders capable of guarding those receivers on the field as possible?
I’m not going to sit here and tell you that Love or Bucannon is going to end up to have even half of the success that Bethea has enjoyed in his illustrious career, but what I am telling you is that any further game that Bethea is getting snaps over these two is a detriment to the future development of this defense.
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If Julian Love can’t get on the field on one of the worst defenses in the NFL, while that team is hurting for secondary help and sits at 2-5, then when will he able able to get on the field? The coach-speak of ‘well, he’s just not ready’ is all well and good while your team is still in the mix, but sooner or later it’s time to realize that the only way that player will ever really get ready is through legit NFL experience.
While it’s unlikely Bethea will go from playing 97% of snaps to zero, hopefully this will be the first game that we start to see it trend in the other direction. If the Giants are going to be bad, it’s in everyone’s (outside of Bethea’s) best interest for them to be bad with younger players.
No disrespect to Antoine Bethea, but the future of this team is more important then ‘doing the right thing’ for a 35-year-old vet that has only played seven games with the franchise.
It’s time to move on.