Giants’ Xavier McKinney bouncing back amidst criticisms this season

New York Giants safety Xavier McKinney (29) celebrates with running back Saquon Barkley (26) after a New England Patriots missed field goal during the fourth quarter at MetLife Stadium
Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Giants’ defense has been the center of controversy in recent weeks. This week, defensive coordinator Wink Martindale was caught in the headlines after it was reported that he and head coach Brian Daboll’s relationship has entered a “bad place.” But weeks ago, it was starting safety and captain Xavier McKinney who received criticism for his comments about the coaching staff.

McKinney has had an up-and-down campaign despite playing in a contract year this season. After a slow start to the year, McKinney has picked things up in recent weeks and is demonstrating why he is one of the defense’s most valuable players.

Xavier McKinney has standout performance in Week 12

The Giants’ defense led the team to a 10–7 win over the New England Patriots on Sunday. The unit forced three turnovers en route to victory. McKinney forced one of those turnovers as he snagged his first interception of the season — and what an interception it was.

McKinney broke on the ball and jumped the pass to pick off Patriots QB Bailey Zappe in the fourth quarter. It was an incredible play by McKinney to cap off what was an excellent Week 12 performance.

McKinney led the defense with 10 total tackles on Sunday and added two passes defended and the interception. This was arguably X-Man’s best performance of the season and it comes in a string of great performances that he has been having in recent weeks.

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McKinney has been stellar in recent weeks

McKinney is second on the team with 86 total tackles this season behind only LB Bobby Okereke who is having a stellar season with 113 tackles. Prior to this week’s win over the Patriots, McKinney was entering the week coming off of a Week 11 performance in which he recorded 13 total tackles, one tackle for loss, and one fumble recovery.

The season got off to a slow start for Big Blue’s defense as McKinney and his unit posted embarrassing missed tackle numbers. He and the defense have since picked things up and played with far more consistency in recent weeks, making major contributions in each of the Giants’ three wins this season.

Should the Giants extend McKinney?

Amidst the controversy, McKinney seemed to be falling out of favor with the fanbase. His struggles early in the season combined with his controversial comments created contention with the fans throughout the season. However, his recent performances have demonstrated McKinney’s value to this team and have reinforced the idea that the Giants should extend him.

McKinney’s contract will expire at the end of this season, making him a pending unrestricted free agent. He is projected to be the sixth-best safety on the market, per Pro Football Focus. But considering his strong play in recent weeks, McKinney could rise up those rankings and be in line to cash in with a big contract.

Considering his value to the defense and the locker room, the Giants should consider extending McKinney this offseason. If he can continue to play at a high level and finish this season on a high note, McKinney could cash in with a Big Blue payday in the spring.