New York Giants: How Will Patrick Graham Utilize The Giants’ Safety Trio?

New York Giants, Patrick Graham
Anthony Rivardo (edit)

The New York Giants have a trio of talented safeties on their roster. Jabrill Peppers is entering his second season with the team, as is former cornerback Julian Love. Love’s experience at cornerback made him a solid option as a coverage safety while Jabrill Peppers’s high-speed, hard-hitting playstyle made him an ideal box safety. Now the Giants are adding a third safety to the mix, Xavier McKinney, who is kind of a perfect blend of Love and Peppers. McKinney can play deep coverage and stuff the run in the box.

That makes for a plethora of versatile talent at the safety position for the Giants. Sometimes it can be difficult for defensive coordinators to utilize such versatile talent in their defensive schemes. The Giants hired Patrick Graham this offseason to be their new defensive coordinator and assistant head coach. Graham will run a blitz-heavy multiple defense that emphasizes versatility.

Multiple Defensive Looks

The Giants ran a 3-4 defense under James Bettcher over the last two seasons. Bettcher received plenty of criticism during his time in New York as the defense often underperformed. The Giants’ hiring of Patrick Graham is exciting because he is as versatile and aggressive as a defensive coordinator can get. Patrick Graham will run a multiple, blitz-heavy defensive scheme with the Giants.

“The scheme is going to be based on the [personnel],” Graham said. “You can anticipate it being multiple. . . People ask if it’ll be 4-3 or 3-4, and I say yes. 2-4? Yes. 3-3-5? Yes. However you want to rearrange the front 7 or all 11, yes.” – Patrick Graham in an interview with, via Giants Wire

Based on the personnel and the opposing offense, the Giants’ defensive scheme will change. One week they could play primarily in a 3-4 and the next week it could primarily be a 4-3 defense. This will keep opposing offenses guessing and allow Patrick Graham to get the best out of his players. Some weeks, the Giants will run mostly single-high safety looks, but Graham could also opt to run plenty of two-safety looks and even some three-safety rotations.

Typically there are only two starting safeties on a defense. But the Giants have three starting-caliber safeties in Love, McKinney, and Peppers. Luckily, Patrick Graham is determined to get the best players on the field, so they will all be rotated in depending on their matchups and could even see extended time on the field together.

Safety Blitzes

Patrick Graham loves to blitz. With the Miami Dolphins in 2019, Graham blitzed frequently:

The Dolphins Blitzed on 35% of their snaps, 41% on third down (which was the third-most in the league). The Dolphins ran man to man coverage 50% of the time in the 2019 season and would often show blitz and drop back into coverage. This was a great strategy in the Graham defense, keeping opposing offenses on their toes because of the constant blitzing formations.” – via Jack Quartararo of Empire Sports Media

One of the most exciting aspects of Graham’s defense is the way he blitzes. Graham loves to utilize defensive back blitzes, and he has the talent to blitz his safeties with extreme efficiency. According to Pro Football Focus, Xavier McKinney earned an 89.2 coverage grade as a junior while also recording 10 pressures. In the past two years, Xavier recorded 21 pressures across 71 pass-rushing snaps. Graham’s usage of the safety blitz will allow Xavier McKinney to make an instant impact on this defense in his rookie season.