New York Giants: Just how great has Blake Martinez been at linebacker?

New York Giants, Blake Martinez

When the New York Giants signed Blake Martinez to a three-year, $30 million contract, most were skeptical over the move. Having poor grades and inconsistent coverage abilities with Green Bay, nobody expected Martinez to be one of the Giants’ best players through 10 weeks. He has been a leader on defense and one of their premier playmakers for Patrick Graham’s unit.

This is Graham’s first year as the Giants’ defensive coordinator, and his unit currently ranks in the top 10  for points allowed per game. They are one of the best run-stopping teams in the league, and Martinez has played a significant part in that metric. While he had his worst game of the season against the Philadelphia Eagles in week 10, missing several tackles and allowing a few receptions, he has been stellar the entire year.

How good has Blake Martinez been for the New York Giants?

Martinez is tied for first in the NFL with 96 combine tackles, also earning five quarterback hits, six tackles for loss, 2.0 sacks, and one forced fumble. He also has an interception, allowing 80.4% of passes thrown his way to be caught. He has a 7.7% missed tackle rate, which is right in line with his previous seasons in Green Bay, but he has been much more active with the Giants this year, as they seem to prioritize linebacker and utilize Martinez as a blitzer and premium run stopper.

Through 10 weeks, Martinez has made 41 stops, which is a measurement that tells when a runner is stopped before gaining 40% of the yardage necessary to pick up a first down. His run defense has quietly decreased in effiencity, but his coverage grades have improved. He is finding a balance between the two, and as he continues to learn Graham’s defensive scheme and adapt, we should expect improvement.

Considering how good he has been for the Giants, there’s a good chance he makes the Pro Bowl this year. Comparably, fans were calling for the Giants to sign Cory Littleton in free agency, and he has been one of the worst starting linebackers in the NFL this year with the Las Vegas Raiders. He has a 36.7 overall defensive grade, with a 39.4 run defense grade and 38.9 coverage grade. Overall, he is not even in the same realm as Martinez, so it seems as if the Giants made a fantastic decision with Blake in free agency.

Chemistry is important:

It is also important to note that Martinez had previous experience with Graham, and this was a specific choice for the Giants’ new defense. He fits the run-stopping role perfectly, and I don’t expect him to be a coverage linebacker. That is one of the positives from this team, they played to the player’s strengths and not force them into uncomfortable situations. Former coordinator James Bettcher did the opposite with cornerback DeAndre Baker, playing him in off-ball zone coverage instead of press-man, which was his strength at Georgia.

It is nice to see the Giants with coordinators who are playing to their strengths and not forcing weaknesses to improve.