EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – No position group on the Giants has undergone as much continuous change in the last two months as the linebackers.
It began with the big roster cutdown on Aug. 31, when five backers were waived or placed on injured reserve. Two days later, B.J. Goodson was traded to Green Bay. Since then, Nate Stupar was released, re-signed, and cut again; Tuzar Skipper was claimed off waivers, played six games and waived; and Kareem Martin and rookie Ryan Connelly were placed on injured reserve.
Alec Ogletree and Lorenzo Carter missed games because of injury. Eight different players have started a game at the four linebacker positions and only Markus Golden, the team's sack leader with 5.0, has started every game.
The additions since the beginning of the season include David Mayo, who has started four games and is the team's fourth-leading tackler with 33, including 1.5 sacks; Josiah Tauafea, who was signed off the practice squad on Oct. 1; and Chris Peace, awarded to the Giants off waivers from the Los Angeles Chargers when Connelly was placed on I.R. on Sept. 30.
The carousel turned again yesterday, when Skipper and tight end Garrett Dickerson were waived and linebackers Devante Downs (off the practice squad) and Deone Bucannon (a free agent) joined the team.
Bucannon is an intriguing addition because of his experience both league-wide (58 starts in 78 regular-season and postseason games) and in defensive coordinator James Bettcher's scheme. He played the first four of his five seasons with Arizona under Bettcher, including three (2015-17) when the latter was the coordinator.
"The defense is familiar to me," Bucannon said after practice today. "I know Coach Bettch and, of course, everybody here is great. Great people, I'm excited to be here."
Bucannon had a five-game stopover with Tampa Bay this season before he was released on Oct. 9, so he has to flush the Buccaneers' system out of his mind while learning the updates to Bettcher's.
"There are a few different terminologies as far as they just have different words for the same things," he said. "Like I said, I'm fortunate enough to get in a system that I understand and I'll be able to hit the ground running instead of having that extra handicap. So, I'm excited to go out there."
Because of his big head start, Bucannon should have no trouble getting up to speed before the Giants face the Lions on Sunday in Detroit.
"He knows the system enough to get up and running quickly," coach Pat Shurmur said. "We'll try to get him ready to go for this week if we can."
Photos from the career of new Giants linebacker Deone Bucannon.
Bucannon arrives with an impressive resume. His career totals include 395 tackles (302 solo), 7.0 sacks, two interceptions – one of which he returned 39 yards for a touchdown at Philadelphia in 2015 - two passes defensed, 27 tackles for loss, 14 quarterback hits, seven forced fumbles and five fumble recoveries.
"He's tough, he's physical, he has some familiarity," Shurmur said. "He played at a high level in Bettch's defense, so we felt like he'd be a good fit. Another guy to add to the inside linebacker group."
And he's another former Cardinal wearing Giants blue. Bucannon joins Golden, starting safety Antoine Bethea and reserve defensive tackle Olsen Pierre as defenders who played under Bettcher in Arizona. Fullback Eli Penny also played for the Cardinals in 2017.
"I go back with Markus and Antoine," Bucannon said. "We had a lot of success together in this defense, and I'm happy and fortunate because they're playmakers on this team and maybe I can continue to piggyback off them and be behind them and see what they're doing right. And of course, whatever form of role I'm going to have, I'm going to be able to hit it running."
Golden is excited to again line up with Bucannon.
"I'm glad to have him and have him here as a Giant and I'm ready to roll with him," Golden said. "I know what he is going to bring every day, so I'm excited to have him out there with me.
"He can cover, and he can play the run like a real linebacker. I feel like Buc brings an intensity, he will be able to fly around. Whether it's in coverage and in the run game, he will be able to get in there and make plays, too. … I know he will be able to jump in, I know he knows the defense, he played in it before. There are a couple things he will have to learn that we changed up, but I know he knows the basics. Whatever he has to do to learn the rest, I know he will do it."
Bucannon believes he can contribute at both linebacker and safety. He is wearing No. 29, which is more suited to the latter.
"I can do both," he said. "I feel like I'm a playmaker. I'm an athlete. So, I'm comfortable I can play the run, I've always prided myself on doing that. I don't like being categorized into a one category kind of player, I can do everything. Like I said, I'm looking forward to adding whatever it is, special teams to playing on the field, whatever it is. I'm looking forward to plugging in and doing what I need to do."
So are the Giants.
*Rookie cornerback Corey Ballentine, who remains in the NFL concussion protocol, was the only Giants player who did not practice today.
Wide receiver Sterling Shepard, who missed the last two games because he is in the protocol, practiced on a limited non-contact basis.
"He's been out there practicing pretty much full, but he's still in the protocol," Shurmur said. "That's kind of a unique answer to the question, but that's where he's at right now."
Running back Saquon Barkley (ankle) was also limited.
"Just some game soreness," Shurmur said. "I expect him to play this week though."
Giants vs. Lions Broadcast Info: TV channel, Radio Station and Live Stream.