When a player joins a new team, there is usually a period of somewhat awkward exploration. A feeling-out process. He has to ask where the meeting rooms are, where the cafeteria is, even what to wear and when. And that first day at practice? A guy can look completely lost. It can be ugly.
But Wednesday, Deone Bucannon’s first as a Giant, was almost seamless. At least on the field. The veteran coverage linebacker was in the middle of everything and looked as comfortable as someone who had been playing in the Giants’ scheme his whole career.
Maybe that’s because he has.
Bucannon played under James Bettcher, the Giants’ defensive coordinator, for four seasons when they were with the Cardinals. He signed with the Bucs this offseason — a team that uses almost the same defensive philosophies — and then was released by them. Now he is with the Giants.
Signed on Tuesday, practicing Wednesday, and expected to play against the Lions in Detroit on Sunday.
“He’s definitely seasoned in the system,” fellow inside linebacker Alec Ogletree said. “He’s one of us, for sure.”
Bucannon isn’t a traditional linebacker. When in Arizona he played the position Bettcher calls “money backer,” which is a bit of a hybrid spot. The Giants have spent the last year and a half trying to find someone who could be Bettcher’s Bucannon here in New York. Now they have the actual one.
“I’m here like a puzzle piece,” Bucannon said after his first workout with his new team. “It’s an easy fit...I’m going to flow in like water.”
Bucannon’s familiarity is not limited to his coach and the playbook. The Giants’ defense is loaded with former Cardinals.
“Good dude, good person, good player,” safety Antoine Bethea said of his old and new teammate.
“He’s going to bring it every day no matter what,” linebacker Markus Golden said. “I know he’ll be able to jump in. He’s played the defense before. There are a couple of little things here and there that we changed up, but he knows the basics.”
Bucannon was waived by the Buccaneers on Oct. 8 after playing just six defensive snaps in five games. He struggled in 2018, his final season in Arizona, as well. He averaged 72 tackles a season from 2015-17 then made just 38 with no passes defensed or interceptions in 2018. That was the only season he played in a system different from the one the Giants employ. Now they are hoping that, like Golden has shown, he can regain his Cardinals form for his former coordinator.
“It’s all about opportunities in this league,” Bucannon said. “I’m the same player I was when I was a rookie...When I go on the field I know what I can do and people know what I can do.”
During his two-and-a-half weeks of unemployment, Bucannon said he spent time living and training in Tampa and Arizona, too. That last base of operations allowed him to watch the Giants-Cardinals game on Sunday. He said he had no idea that he would be joining the team when he tuned in to their 27-21 loss to the Cardinals.
Then the phone rang on Monday and on Tuesday he was working out for the front office with a contract on the other side of the tryout.
“When New York called, it was pretty much a no-brainer,” Bucannon said. “Now I’m here.”
And in many ways it feels like he always was.