Giants’ DC Shane Bowen Plans ‘Hybrid Role’ for Versatile Returning Free Agent

Isaiah Simmons

Getty The New York Giants and defensive coordinator Shane Bowen have a "hybrid role" planned for a versatile, returning free agent.

Shane Bowen already has plans for versatile Isaiah Simmons, after the linebacker returned to the New York Giants on a one-year deal in 2024 NFL free agency. Simmons is ticketed for a “hybrid role” under new defensive coordinator Shane Bowen.

The deal to bring back Simmons was agreed on Friday, April 5, according to ESPN’s Jordan Raanan.

Simmons’ new contract is still contingent on a pending physical, per Managing Editor Dan Salomone. Significantly, Salomone described Simmons as a safety/linebacker in his report.

The dual position speaks to what Jeff Kerr of CBS Sports believes will be “a hybrid role.” Fortunately, Kerr noted how “Simmons has appeared to embrace that role under Bowen, as he can line up in coverage as a box safety or rush the passer as a linebacker. Bowen likes versatile players and Simmons could be used in a Malik Hooker-type role in New York.”

A comparison with Dallas Cowboys’ safety Malik Hooker is apt since the 28-year-old spent time lined up in the deep third, as well as in the box last season. Moving around in a similar way looks to be a key part of Simmons’ remit.

Isaiah Simmons Proved Worth in 2023

Simmons was an active figure after arriving as part of a trade involving the Arizona Cardinals in 2023. The eighth player selected in the 2020 NFL draft appeared in all 17 games and played 377 snaps on defense and 224 on special teams, according to Pro Football Reference.

Those 337 snaps are listed at safety, but Simmons was also a factor at the linebacker level. The 25-year-old was playing there when he snatched this pick-six off Sam Howell against the Washington Commanders in Week 11.

This was the signature play of Simmons’ debut season with the Giants, but he’ll make additional splash plays if he’s moved around more often. Turning him loose as a big-bodied defensive back in three-safety sets makes sense for the Giants.

Simmons adopted that kind of role when he lined up in the slot and almost jumped a screen pass for another pick-six, this one against the Philadelphia Eagles in Week 16. Simmons’ anticipation from a de facto safety spot was highlighted by Shane Haff of SB Nation’s Bleeding Green.

Using Simmons in similarly multiple ways will help Bowen create favorable matchups for his defense, as part of a more fluid and reactive scheme.

Giants’ Defense Will Look Different Under Shane Bowen

Bowen won’t be like his predecessor, Don ‘Wink’ Martindale. The latter loved to blitz and rely on man coverage, evidenced by the Giants posting a 45.4 blitz percentage, second highest in the NFL, last season.

Simmons fit the pressure-crazed blueprint well. It’s why Martindale blitzed him 54 times, but Simmons shouldn’t expect to be sent after quarterbacks as often on Bowen’s watch.

Instead, Bowen is likely to use the player’s flexibility and range to bring his New England Patriots-style, opponent-specific schemes to life. That might mean using Simmons to body a top tight end one week, then spy a mobile quarterback the next.

Ultimately, bringing Simmons back to help put Bowen’s playbook into practice opens up a ton of exciting possibilities for the Giants defensively.

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