The New York Giants’ defense could be characterized as an inconsistent unit so far through the first four weeks of the 2023 season. The defense has struggled with tackling and has allowed opposing offenses to convert third-and-long situations at a frequent rate.
However, despite the unit’s struggles, second-year linebacker Micah McFadden has managed to take a big step forward and turn his career around following a disappointing rookie year.
Micah McFadden has risen to the occasion
McFadden was a player New York relied on heavily as a rookie last season. He appeared in all 17 games and made seven starts, but struggled to maintain a consistent performance level.
Despite totaling six tackles for loss as a rookie, McFadden was a liability in coverage, surrendering 20 completions on 23 targets in coverage (87.0%) for 211 yards and one touchdown. Due to his lack of coverage abilities, McFadden’s standing as the starting linebacker was in question this offseason.
Heading into this season, it was unclear who would man the No. 2 linebacker position next to Bobby Okereke. McFadden competed with fellow second-year linebacker Darrian Beavers this summer for the position and ultimately wound up winning the starting job.
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The Giants have a gem in McFadden
McFadden has assumed the starting role and embarked on a breakout sophomore campaign.
His playing time has increased drastically, being on the field for 72% of the Giants’ defensive snaps through the first four games, compared to just 39% of snaps last season.
Through four games, McFadden has 31 combined tackles and five tackles for loss. He has also added a pass breakup that came on a crucial fourth-down man-coverage play against the Seattle Seahawks in Week 4.
While McFadden is still surrendering a high amount of his coverage targets to be completed (88.9%), he has shown improvements in that area. His yards per catch allowed have dropped from 10.6 last season down to a respectable 6.1 this season. McFadden has only surrendered 49 yards and an 89.4 passer rating in coverage this season.
There is still room for McFadden to improve
Despite his clear improvements in coverage, McFadden still has some weaknesses to iron out in his game. The 23-year-old has already missed eight tackles this season, a 20.5% missed tackle rate.
In order for McFadden to maintain his role in the starting lineup and establish himself as a premier player in Big Blue’s defense, he will need to improve his tackle rate.