New York Giants: Why Xavier McKinney will play as much as a starter this season

New York Giants, Xavier McKinney

The New York Giants had one of the best defenses in the NFL last season. The unit features a crowded safety room with a group of talented players. Jabrill Peppers and Logan Ryan are the projected starters at each of the two starting safety positions. But second-year safety Xavier McKinney could still see the field as much as a starter this season.

How Xavier McKinney will see the field so much

The Giants’ 2020 second-round draft pick was sidelined for the majority of his rookie season after suffering a foot fracture during training camp. Xavier McKinney did not see any regular-season action until Week 12 of this past season. He only played five snaps in Week 12 but saw his playing time increase as the weeks went on. By the end of the season, McKinney was playing nearly as much as a starter would. In Week 17 versus the Dallas Cowboys, Xavier McKinney played 74 total snaps (89% of the team’s defensive snaps).

Considering the impact Xavier had in his small sample size of playing time last season, it is reasonable to expect he will get a ton of playing time in 2021. The Giants love running “big nickel” defensive packages. These packages feature five defensive backs on the field like any nickel formation. However, the “big” nickel is the extra safety that is on the field in these packages. The Giants have a group of talented safeties: Jabrill Peppers, Logan Ryan, Xavier McKinney, and Julian Love. In order to get all of these players on the field at the same time, the Giants’ defense could look something like this:

This Nickel 3-3-5 Odd defense manages to get Peppers, Ryan, McKinney, and Love all on the field at the same time. Love slides into that “big nickel” role, playing slot cornerback as a safety. Ryan and McKinney play the two-deep safety positions while Jabrill Peppers creeps down into the box to play some weak side linebacker.

Defensive coordinator Patrick Graham loves to run big nickel formations, and the nickel 3-3-5 package is one of his favorites. Expect to see this formation and personnel package utilized frequently in 2021. This will lead to plenty of playing time for the New York Giants’ second-year safety Xavier McKinney.

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