Darian Thompson jammed his shoulder in the preseason and will likely miss the season opener this Sunday in Dallas. Enter Nat Berhe, who has been waiting for his moment the past three summers.
The Giants drafted Berhe out of San Diego State in the fifth round of the 2014 NFL Draft with the expectation that he would become a staple in their fractured secondary. Behre was hailed as a hard worker who made up for his lack of size with guile and grit. Berhe's pre-draft measurables were 5'10", 193 pounds.
"This guy is really productive, a tackling machine, a little bit undersized but you just can't deny how this guy is a football player," Giants GM Jerry Reese said of Berhe after the draft. "We use the term 'football player;' this guy is one of those guys, a football player. He's all over the place; he'll play on all of your special teams. You expect guys to play on special teams as well. Very productive, a really good football player."
Berhe made an immediate impact on both special teams and defense, recording several big hits and forcing a fumble in the Hall of Fame game against the Buffalo Bills. He played all 16 games as a rookie, mainly on special teams.
Last season, the Giants were ready to hand Berhe a starting position on defense, but as luck would have it, he tore a calf muscle and missed the entire year.
After a spate of injuries to the defensive backfield, the Giants decided to fortify the group through the draft and free agency. This summer, Berhe entered camp as just another safety in the rank and file. Finally healthy, he made the club as one of the four safeties the Giants decided to keep along with Landon Collins, Mykkele Thompson (who also missed the 2015 season due to injury) and the now-injured rookie Darian Thompson, who won the starting job alongside Collins.
"Absolutely," said head coach Ben McAdoo on Wednesday when asked if he had confidence in Berhe. "He's a guy that's been struggling to get out in the field. He's finally had a chance to get out there and stay out there. He's learned the defense and is improving as a communicator. He's our heat seeking missile out there, fast and aggressive."
Can Berhe become the player the Giants had hoped when they drafted him? We'll finally get that answer starting this Sunday. Berhe is ironically geting the nod because of another player's injury.
"I think that life is all about timing, and so I just have to wait my turn," Berhe told reporters Wednesday. "And the time is now."
Berhe is confident in his ability to do the job and do it well. After waiting so long to get back on the field, he has a lot of catching up to do and isn't turning back.
"I'm pretty confident," he said when asked if he felt he could play himself into a role. "I'm not going to lose that confidence, no matter what the situation is. I'm going to be ready to play."
"The Missile", as Berhe is nicknamed for the way he hurls his body into opponents, makes no apologies for his ultra-physical style.
"Absolutely," he said when asked about playing like a heat-seeking missile. "I don't play the game any other way."
The team is excited to have Berhe back, and he could very well play himself past Thompson on the depth chart. The Giants may finally have the pleasant problem of depth on defense.