If you havenâ€™t blocked the last two years of New York Giants football out of your head yet, you surely remember Alec Ogletree playing linebacker. While he would occasionally make an incredible interception, he was a liability in both the run and pass game. His instinctual talents were void in some specific areas, but the Giants made a concerted effort to upgrade the linebacker position in 2020.
The Giants went out and signed Blake Martinez, formally of the Green Bay Packers. He signed a three-year, $30.75 million deal with $19 million guaranteed. While heâ€™s averaging about $10 million per year â€” that is a solid deal for a linebacker who led the league in tackles last year with 155. In fact, he has posted more than 140 combined tackles in three consecutive seasons, also tallying eight sacks over the last two years.
Right after joining Big Blue, Martinez stated that Green Bay underutilized him and didnâ€™t value the middle linebacker position as much as the Giants do. He is being given the freedom to move up to the line of scrimmage and make tackles in the backfield.
In week one against the Pittsburgh Steelers, he racked up 13 combined tackles, one tackle for a loss, and zero completions. He didnâ€™t miss a single tackle, and every attempt occurred within 5 yards of the line of scrimmage. In other words, he was stellar for the defense and was a massive bright spot for the Giants.
Upgrading the position was a necessity, as pairing Ogletree with a bevy of lackluster options was never a winning recipe.
Check out the clip below, where Martinez instinctually drops back into coverage and runs about 10 yards to make a stop on 2nd and 11. It seems as if the Giants were playing cover-2, where Martinez dropped back to around the first down marker to contain the play, but his speed was a major factor in this stop.
— Alex Wilson (@AlexWilsonESM) September 14, 2020
According to PFF, Martinez was the highest-rated player for the Giants in week one. With an overall 83.9 grade, he was the seventh-best off-ball linebacker and tied all linebackers with 11 tackles. In coverage, he was great, and against the run, he was even better. The Giants can finally feel comfortable in the second level of their defense, which has been a major liability in recent years.
Blake Martinez, the big free agent signing, was the highest graded Giants player in week 1.
His overall grade of 83.9 was the 7th best among off-ball LBâ€™s and recorded 11 tackles, tied most for all LBâ€™s this week. pic.twitter.com/q8rxOqwNOI
— PFF NY Giants (@PFF_Giants) September 15, 2020