One of the scouting shots on Darrian Beavers can be turned into the very skill that makes the rookie center linebacker a future candidate to lead the Giants defense.
To think like a safety, Beavers lets his mind return to high school football. To think like a lunging fullback, defensive end or rushing outside linebacker, Beavers relies on the experience he gained playing all those positions in Connecticut and Cincinnati.
Add it all up and suddenly, a draft prospect criticized for his lack of true position is reinvented as a defensive signalman who knows all of his teammates’ assignments. Beavers had his first opportunity to show the Giants what he can do Thursday when he was an injury replacement starter, made three tackles (one for loss) and wore the helmet connected to coordinator Wink Martindale for the second-team defense in the second quarter. of the Giants’ 23-21 win over the New England Patriots in the preseason opener.
“I love this challenge where I have to tell everyone the call,” Beavers said. “It keeps me locked in throughout practice where I’m not just dreaming. Even when I’m on the sidelines, people ask me, ‘What’s the decision?’ I think it’s good for me.
Beavers was one of six finalists last season for the Butkus Award, given to college football’s top linebacker. The other five – including one who is expected to miss most of the 2022 season – were drafted higher than Beavers (No. 182 overall in the sixth round). Adding fuel to the fire?
“What you love about being a rookie is that you have something to prove. It motivates you every day,” Beavers said. “It’s my dream. I wanted to be drafted. That was the goal, that’s what happened. Everyone’s dream is to be the first [at his position] off the board, but I wanted the opportunity to prove myself, and that’s what I’m trying to do.
The intentionally slow reintegration of tackle machine Blake Martinez into practice after tearing his ACL last season gave the Beavers ample opportunity. Safety Xavier McKinney is calling signals with the starting defense, but Martinez could return to the role he previously held once he is fully involved. Beavers is Martinez’s understudy.
“He appeared on tape,” Martinez said. “Just [needs to] keep improving by seeing things for the first time and understanding how to play against bigger offensive linemen and things like that.
Playing inside linebacker in a system borrowed from the Ravens — the home of Ray Lewis, Bart Scott, CJ Mosley and others — is no small responsibility.
“You can’t not study,” Beavers said. “One of the most important things is you have to know what you’re doing. If you see something wrong you have to tell the D-line or the safeties or the corners how to line up. We have to be able to cover the pass, blitz and fill the run. You have to be good at a bit of everything when you play for Wink.
Rookie Micah McFadden is in the same boat as Beavers, supporting fellow inside starter Tae Crowder.
“It’s one of the toughest positions to play,” Martindale said. “They accepted the challenge and accepted me. It’s a position I’ve always trained in this league, so I’m the toughest [critic].”
The Beavers closed a running gap and made a loud noise at the goal line in Sunday’s practice. It set the tone for a physical week.
“Every day you start to become more free,” Beavers said. “You start to know more. You become better and better at learning the games and the speed of the game. You become more intuitive with the game calls and why Wink wants this game in this certain situation.
A burly, chiseled 6-foot-4, 255 pounds, Beavers looks more like an edge rusher. He may be asked to move in an “open” competition for subset roles so he can be on the field once the regular season begins.
“I’m comfortable playing in different positions,” Beavers said. “When I do different things, that’s nothing new to me.”
The temptation exists for rookies eager to make an impression and play for the first time in front of an NFL-sized crowd to get too aggressive. But the Beavers played plenty of big games in Cincinnati alongside four defensive teammates — including the Jets’ Sauce Gardner — drafted higher than him in April. He understands patience.
“When you first come out, you hope to go crazy and put on a show, but I have to keep my cool and not mess around and try to do a bunch of plays,” Beavers said. “For me, it’s to keep my cool, and when the parts come in, make them.”
New York Post