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Nat Berhe eager to prove he can start at safety

Giants safety Nat Berhe #34 makes a catch

Giants safety Nat Berhe #34 makes a catch during drills during training camp at the Quest Diagnostics Training Center in East Rutherford, NJ on Tuesday, July 29, 2014. Credit: Brad Penner

Nat Berhe remembers points last season when fans were clamoring for him to be on the field, when they wanted the Giants to take a look at the younger players. Which is why he laughs now when he reads reactions on Twitter or other social media venues about the team's lack of depth at safety.

"It's funny to me," the second-year player said. "Last year they wanted us to play, and now that we have an opportunity to play it's like, 'Oh my goodness, the young guys are going to play!' Like everybody is scared. It's kind of funny to me. I wouldn't be here if I couldn't play."

Fans will find out quickly whether that is true or not. Berhe is a projected starter at a position once ruled by the likes of Antrel Rolle and Stevie Brown and even Kenny Phillips. Before the team signed Josh Gordy last week, it had no one on the roster who had ever started an NFL game at safety.

There are others in the mix. Cooper Taylor is returning from injury after barely playing his first two seasons. General manager Jerry Reese said Chykie Brown and Bennett Jackson likely will be converted to safeties from cornerbacks. And there is still the draft and an opportunity to add to the position.

"We're not going to make do," Reese said. "We have some young players who we think have some talent."

Berhe is the one who has flashed it the most, standing out on special teams last season. Now, it seems, he'll be getting a promotion.

"You see a lot of guys who are on the board in free agency who the Giants could have gotten, and they didn't get them," Berhe said of watching the team miss out on Devon McCourty and then pass on a host of other safeties. "For me that was like, 'OK, they're showing some confidence in the young guys.' "

Berhe also said he is excited to work with new defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo, who coached his cousin, Jimmy Smith of the Ravens.

"Coach Spags, I can talk to him," Berhe said. "I don't know if I can say that about the last coordinator [Perry Fewell]. He was good, but coach Spags is someone I can have a conversation with in the halls and stuff like that."

Berhe still has to earn the spot. He said there are some things he needs to show the Giants before that happens, including knowing the playbook and being accountable. But there is also one simple element that will go into assuaging fan fears and making Berhe a fixture in the secondary.

"Make plays, I think that's really what it comes down to," he said. "Everybody gets caught up in seniority and stuff like that, but if you make plays, there's no reason why you shouldn't be starting."

Did you catch that slight knock on Fewell?

"Coach Perry, I wish him the best," Berhe said with a knowing grin. "That's pretty much it."

Berhe also said that sitting on the bench behind Rolle allowed him to see the defense in a different way.

"I saw a lot of things I liked and, not playing, I saw a lot of things you don't like," he said. "You saw what worked and you saw what doesn't work."

Berhe said he's not in a position to provide input into how the defense should be run in 2015. They are three days into the offseason program and he hasn't even been on the field yet. But he did say he'd like this year's unit to have a different mentality than the one it had under Fewell.

"Attack," he said. "Last year I felt like we were more reactionary. We just kind of waited and then reacted instead of really getting after it."


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