New York Giants rookie safety Xavier McKinney impresses in extended appearance against Browns

New York Giants, Xavier McKinney
Dec 20, 2020; East Rutherford, New Jersey, USA; Cleveland Browns wide receiver Donovan Peoples-Jones (11) runs the ball against New York Giants safety Xavier McKinney (29) and cornerback Julian Love (20) during the fourth quarter at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Giants came out flat and lost a crucial Week 15 matchup with the Cleveland Browns on Sunday night. New York’s offense failed to get in the end zone, coming away with only six total points on the scoreboard. The game stayed in reach, however, as the Giants’ defense held the electric Browns’ offense to only twenty total points.

On the Giants’ defense, there were some impressive individual performances that helped keep the game close. Ultimately, the Giants’ lack of a pass-rush allowed Baker Mayfield to comfortably stand in the pocket and have a career-day. But Baker’s phenomenal performance is not to discredit the great efforts of some of the Giants’ defensive backs forced to play out of position. Rookie safety Xavier McKinney spent most of the game filling in at slot cornerback and had a solid performance.

Xavier McKinney in Week 15

According to Pro Football Focus, Xavier McKinney was the highest-graded player on the Giants’ defense against the Cleveland Browns. McKinney earned a 70.5 overall grade on 41 snaps, 64% of the team’s defensive snaps.

This was the most that Xavier McKinney has seen the field all season. The rookie second-round pick broke his foot in training camp, keeping him out for the first eleven weeks of the season. Xavier returned to the team in Week 12 but has been slowly worked into the defense. The Giants’ defense has been playing well this season, so they have not had any need to rush Xavier into the lineup.

That was until this week. The Giants were short on defensive backs entering their Week 15 matchup with the Cleveland Browns. Elite cornerback James Bradberry was out this week after being placed on the reserve/COVID-19 list. Additionally, starting slot cornerback Darnay Holmes was out with a knee injury. This forced the Giants to play two safeties out of position at cornerback, and Xavier McKinney was one of those safeties.

McKinney spent most of his time playing slot cornerback on Sunday night. While Xavier McKinney’s box score stat line might not be too impressive or indicate a great performance, going deeper than the surface level will reveal that Xavier actually did play a solid game.

Xavier McKinney allowed zero yards allowed in coverage, racked up multiple tackles, and had zero missed tackles in the game (PFF). The Giants got a lowkey impressive performance out of their rookie safety in his first extended appearance, and that is a huge positive they can draw from this disappointing loss.