Former Alabama safety Xavier McKinney was projected as a first-round pick in the 2020 NFL draft. However, McKinney was still on the board when the New York Giants picked him 36th overall. They didn’t hesitate to acquire the talented defensive back. He missed the majority of his rookie season due to a broken foot suffered during training camp.
McKinney made just six appearances for the Giants in 2020, recording 25 tackles and one interception, coming against the Dallas Cowboys in the final week of the season. That moment spurred a bit of confidence for McKinney, who went on to have a dominant 2021 campaign.
As a whole, the Giants were extremely disappointing to watch last season, but McKinney was a stand-out bright spot on the defensive side. He finished with 93 combined tackles, one tackle for a loss, 10 passes defended, five interceptions, and one pick-six.
Against the Las Vegas Raiders in Week 9, McKinney really showcased his talent. He recorded seven tackles, two interceptions, and a pick-six in that contest alone. The Raiders were surprisingly solid last season with Derek Carr under center, but McKinney tortured him all afternoon in East Rutherford.
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- Do the New York Giants have a legitimate problem at CB2 after Aaron Robinson dud?
The New York Giants should be preparing for a big development jump:
There is reason to believe that McKinney will not only take a step forward in 2022 but could become an All-Pro level player if he continues to develop at this rate. The big question is, how will he translate after the Giants completely changed schematics? Patrick Graham left for Las Vegas and Wink Martindale became the new defensive coordinator after being released by Baltimore.
Martindale’s system will rely heavily on single-high looks in the defensive backfield. That means McKinney will be the lone safety on the back end, responsible for covering the length of the field on deep throws. That will put him in a more tumultuous spot. If he can excel in that area, there’s no question he will be labeled as one of the best safeties in football quickly.
PFF is already betting on McKinney becoming a top 10 safety sooner rather than later after making an extravagant jump from his rookie campaign to sophomore season.
With the Giants releasing James Bradberry on the boundary to save salary space, McKinney might have his work cut out for him trying to help at the CB2 spot. Adoree Jackson has the top-end speed to limit big plays downfield. There are concerns with Aaron Robinson in coverage given his lack of experience. However, he has the aggressive style and speed to keep up. McKinney shouldn’t have too many issues with free runners in the backfield.
McKinney is no pushover in the running game either, given his 93 tackles last year. He’s able to step up and help fill gaps at the second level with his speed and range. Oftentimes, McKinney was utilized as a blitzer, lining up in a myriad of different spots to confuse opposing offenses. I expect even more creativity from Martindale, which should extrapolate on Xavier’s strengths.