New York Giants: Blake Martinez details how he will impact the defense

New York Giants, Blake Martinez

The New York Giants added several new faces to their defense in the offseason, former Green Bay Packers linebacker Blake Martinez among the most notable. New York and Martinez agreed to a three-year, $30 million deal in free agency.

Martinez, 26, finished with 155 combined tackles, three sacks, and one interception last season. For his career, the Stanford product has totaled 512 combined tackles, 10 sacks, and three interceptions.

The Giants are learning a new defense under first-year head coach Joe Judge, which will be administered by new defensive coordinator Patrick Graham. They’ve been doing as such virtually this offseason due to COVID-19 restrictions.

How Blake Martinez intends to help the New York Giants:

Regarding his new Giants teammates, Martinez said on Thursday he wants to “make it seem like we’ve been friends for the last six months” at training camp (quotes are courtesy of tweets by Giants.com’s Dan Salomone).

Martinez has familiarity with Graham as the latter was the Packers inside linebackers coach and run game coordinator in 2018. Martinez has said that Graham is “one of the smartest coaches” he has ever been around (quotes per Giants.com’s Michael Eisen).

“He’s probably one of the smartest coaches I’ve ever been around,” Martinez said. “Just his ability to get you ready within four to five days. Every single week my third year when he was my inside linebacker coach, I went into the games on Sunday feeling like I knew exactly what plays were going to happen and exactly what I had to do within our scheme. It just made each game so easy to play. That was the biggest thing I got from him throughout that year and got me so excited to be able to work with him again, obviously, coming up again this season.”

Martinez will spearhead an inside linebacker unit that includes David Mayo, who re-signed with the Giants on a three-year deal in the offseason, second-year player Ryan Connelly and seventh-round draft picks T.J. Brunson and Tae Crowder.

Martinez says he wants to be the “rock” of the Giants defense and thinks the team will be “in a good spot” if they make prudent decisions from a health standpoint.

Blake Martinez Projected As The Most Improved New York Giant For 2020

New York Giants, Blake Martinez, McManus Designs

The New York Giants need some improvements in 2020. There’s no question about it after the team drafted in the top five again this year, but it remains to be seen where that improved production will come from. Will Saquon Barkley have a bounce back season and compete for MVP? Will James Bradberry step up and become a top corner in the league? Or will this be the real breakout season for Daniel Jones?

According to NFL.com’s Cynthia Frelund, the most improved player on the Giants this year isn’t going to be any of those names, but rather Blake Martinez. With a big hit against the cap, most fans also expect such improvements at this point.

Why the Giants will lean on Blake Martinez in 2020

The statistics say that Martinez was an active player with Green Bay in terms of tackling and getting involved in the play frequently. That skill lends itself well to the Giants, who have no other clear cut top name at middle linebacker.

Martinez made a tackle on 15.8 percent of his snaps (third-highest rate in the NFL among those with a minimum of 500 defensive snaps). The Giants’ defense, especially in the middle, will rely on Martinez’s effective play, likely requiring him to make even more tackles than the Packers’ defense required of him last season.

The Giants have been lacking in this area over the past few seasons and when Ryan Connelly started to stand out at inside linebacker, his season was ended early by an ACL tear. Now, it seems the team isn’t banking too heavily on Connelly coming back as a starter as they’ve invested big in Martinez instead.

Whether it’s a good or bad decision, the team’s move to bring him in on a deal that gives him the fifth highest cap hit on the team shows their intent to involve him heavily in their plans.

But is it enough to make Martinez the most improved player on the team this year? That’s a stretch, but we’ll have our first indications of just how good Martinez is going to be once training camp starts early next week, and Martinez and the rest of the new free agents finally hit the field in pads.

The New York Giants are taking a risky approach at linebacker

New York Giants, Ryan Connelly

The New York Giants are taking a risk at linebacker in 2020, but the rebuild makes it necessary: 

The New York Giants are still in the middle of a full roster rebuild, and expecting every unit to play at a high-level is unrealistic. With a second-year quarterback and an entirely new secondary, Big Blue will face its fair share of troubles in 2020, but improvement is all we are asking for.

While some positions theoretically got better, the linebacker corps is still very unpredictable and lacks elite talent. The Giants went out and signed former Green Bay Packers linebacker Blake Martinez, who brings experience as the MIKE linebacker who can stop the run and contain big plays. Martinez was often utilized in a vilifying scheme, noting that Green Bay didn’t value the middle linebacker position too much. He was forced to play zone coverage, Which affected his pass protection grades and efficiency.

The veteran defender will hopefully be an improvement over Alec Ogletree, but we won’t know until the regular season comes around, and we see his fit in the new defensive scheme, orchestrated by Patrick Graham.

The riskier spot is next to Martinez, where Ryan Connelly and a bevy of other players will compete for starting reps. The Giants seem optimistic that Connelly will return from a torn ACL in 2019 and play at a high-level. In four games, he posted 20 combine tackles, 1.0 sack, 2 passes offended, and 2 interceptions. He looked fantastic in a limited sample size, and if he can return to full health, Connelly will be the favorite to pair with Martinez at weakside linebacker.

Behind Connelly and Martinez is David Mayo, who signed a three year, $8.4 million deal this offseason. Mayo is a solid depth piece who can stop the run efficiently, but he is poor in coverage. Mayo played in 16 games for the Giants last year, tallying 52 solo tackles, 82 combined, 2.0 sacks, and allowed 19 completions on 29 targets, compiling a 65.5% completion rate against. One category he improved significantly in was his missed tackles. In 2018, he missed 26.3% of his tackles, which decreased more than 15% to 10.9% in 2019.

The Giants don’t have elite talent at linebacker — they have serviceable players that can hold down the fort while they continue to rebuild the roster. I anticipate they will look to bring in another player next year in the middle rounds of the draft or free agency, depending on how Connelly turns out. For now, we can expect them to enjoy some improvement after the replacement of Ogletree.

New York Giants: Why Blake Martinez Could Improve Drastically In Big Blue

New York Giants, Blake Martinez

The New York Giants made a splash in free agency this offseason signing a couple of key defenders. The Gmen signed cornerback James Bradberry and linebacker Blake Martinez to expensive contracts. People were mostly pleased with the work Dave Gettleman and company did in free agency, however, there were some mixed reviews.

In particular, some were critical of the Martinez signing. Blake Martinez was one of many linebackers available in a very talented free-agent class. The Giants signed Martinez to a three-year contract worth $30.75 million. Comparatively, Cory Littleton signed a three-year contract worth $35.25 million. Many viewed this to be a marginally more expensive signing for a significantly better player. That might be true when comparing the two linebackers’ 2019 seasons. But upon further examination, there is reason to believe Blake Martinez will be a better player in 2020.

A Disappointing 2019

2019 was a terrible performance by Blake Martinez in pass coverage. His completion percentage allowed rose to 83.8%, allowing opponents to complete 62 passes on 74 targets for 570 yards and 2 touchdowns. This makes Martinez a serious liability in pass coverage on the Giants’ defense.

Additionally, Blake Martinez missed 18 tackles in 2019. This was a missed tackle rate of 10.4%. This number needs to go down in 2020, but there is a reason to believe it will. The role Martinez played in the Packers’ defense last season could be the reason for the higher percentage of mixed tackles. But in the Giants’ defensive scheme, his role will be much different.

Why He Should Bounce Back In 2020

Blake Martinez is well aware of the criticisms people have regarding his performance last season. He gave this response:

Blake Martinez says the public misconception of him is that he doesn’t make impact plays. He says that his role in the GB D was to be a “clean-up” guy, the only LB on the field, with no gap responsibilities. Basically play off the other guys and go make the leftover plays. – Tom Rock of Newsday

What Martinez said is highly important. His role in the Packers’ defense changed drastically last season. Martinez is at his best when filling gap responsibilities. In 2019, he did not have gap responsibilities and was not able to make plays in run defense himself.

The Packers changed their coaching staff from 2018 to 2019. In 2018, the linebackers coach and run game coordinator was Patrick Graham. Graham is now the defensive coordinator of the New York Giants. He and Martinez are very familiar with each other and Graham was able to get the best out of Martinez in 2018.

Blake Martinez racked up 144 combined tackles in 2018 along with 10 tackles for loss. But Martinez was also an excellent pass-rusher, a role he was basically taken out of in Green Bay’s 2019 defense. In 2018, Martinez blitzed 61 times, recording 11 pressures, 5 hurries, and 5 sacks. The Packers only brought Blake on 24 blitzes in 2019, but he was still efficient. He recorded 5 pressures, 2 hurries, and 3 sacks on his 24 blitz attempts this past season. Reuniting with Patrick Graham and returning to a blitz-heavy scheme, expect to see Blake Martinez brought on a number of blitzes in 2020.

What should the New York Giants expect from Ryan Connelly in 2020?

New York Giants, Ryan Connelly

The New York Giants did address the inside linebacker position in the 2020 NFL draft this year, but it was with several later round picks that don’t represent exceptional talent or value. Essentially, creating a position battle next to Blake Martinez seems to be the most efficient way of finding the Giants’ second starter. However, they do have Ryan Connolly still on the roster, who suffered a torn ACL in week four against the Washington Redskins in the dying moments of the game during his rookie season.

Connelly started off his career nicely, posting 20 combine tackles, 1.0 sacks, two tackles for loss, two passes defended, and two interceptions. He missed zero tackles and logged a 57.1 completion rate against and zero touchdowns allowed. While his sample size is extremely small and we cannot base a cemented judgment on the numbers he did provide, the early promise he showed should offer optimism moving forward.

The New York Giants also landed Blake Martinez to pair at linebacker:

Signing Blake Martinez should get the Giants another tough run-stopping linebacker in the middle of the defense. While his coverage grade from 2019 is horrendous, he was playing in a strange mesh-zone scheme that didn’t allow him to play his preferred man coverage.

I believe new defensive coordinator Patrick Graham well utilize his players in a more efficient way. He tends to rely on man coverage far more often than James Bettcher. He played man 50% of the time with the Miami Dolphins last year and blitzed on 41% of snaps on third downs. I estimate that Connelly and Martinez will be active in the blitz game but also playing coverage against opposing tight ends and running backs.

The most exciting aspect of Connelly is his ability to shoot the gap instinctively and stop runners in the backfield. He’s also solid in coverage, allowing four completions on seven targets for just 19 yards. He is a smaller more shifty player at 6-foot-2 and 242 pounds.

I really liked what he offered early on in the 2019 season and I believe the Giants defense would’ve been much better if he was active. Nonetheless, plenty of players suffer ACL injuries and return to full health, so I believe he can do the same. The most recent injury updates are positive and he had already begun running and training. While we haven’t heard much from his camp, he should be in line to return to the defense with the green light this summer.

Again, the pairing of Martinez and Connelly could be a bit tumultuous in the beginning, considering it is a new tandem and the defensive playbook are completely overhauled, but they are two capable players who have the potential for more. I believe Connelly is a starter in the NFL and will show that in the near future.

New York Giants: Is Blake Martinez an improvement over Alec Ogletree?

New York Giants, Blake Martinez, McManus Designs

When the New York Giants signed former Green Bay Packer Blake Martinez to a three-year, $30 million deal this off-season, most were perplexed by the decision. With options like Cory Littleton still available, signing Martinez came as a surprise, but the way the Giants plan to use him fits the mold.

Evidently, the Giants are replacing Alec Ogletree with Martinez, two players that have questionable coverage skills. Ogletree posted an 83% completion rate against and three touchdowns allowed in 2019. That doesn’t even factor in his 16% missed tackle rate. Blake Martinez landed an 83.8% completion rate against with two touchdowns allowed. He posted a 10.4% missed tackle rate.

Clearly, both of these players are poor in coverage, despite the Packers utilizing Martinez in a mesh-zone scheme that didn’t allow him to trail opposing tight ends and pass catchers. Nonetheless, the former Packer represents a fantastic clean up linebacker who can rack up tackles.

The Giants are getting a patient linebacker in Martinez, who brings intelligence and experience to a position that has failed to live up to expectations in recent years. Ogletree was a disaster at times in coverage and stopping the run. Martinez can diagnose offensive plays quickly and remain patient to mitigate large gains.

He did state that Green Bay’s defense did not value the linebacker position or the player he’s capable of being. The Giants see him in an expanded role on defense and believe he can produce even more than his 155 combined tackles with Green Bay in 2019.

“Going through the process, I just thought about what kind of fit [would be best] for myself, individually, my play style and those types of things,” Martinez said during a Tuesday appearance on NFL Network’s “Good Morning Football.” “Obviously, looking at the potential places I could go to, New York just jumped off the tape for me. Just seeing the guys that are on the team, the young talent across the board, obviously a new head coach [Joe Judge].

“Then my old inside linebacker coach [Patrick Graham] is now the defensive coordinator. Everything kind of just paired together easily. I was just super excited that I had the chance to go be a Giant.”

Martinez has 522 total tackles in his career, averaging about nine per game. He’s also capable of rushing the passer in unpredictable sets, something new defensive coordinator Patrick Graham will utilize heavily moving forward. Graham blitzed 41% of the time on third downs in 2019 with the Miami Dolphins. Having worked with Graham as his linebackers coach in Green Bay, Martinez has experience that will hopefully translate over to New York. It is important to note that Martinez had some of his best seasons with Graham as his coach.

The Giants desperately needed an upgrade over Ogletree, and while Martinez might not scream elite, he can get the job done, especially against the run.

New York Giants: Is Blake Martinez a big upgrade over Alec Ogletree at MLB?

New York Giants, Blake Martinez, McManus Designs

A look at New York Giants’ new signing Blake Martinez and what he offers the defense:

The New York Giants sign Blake Martinez to a three-year, $30 million deal this off-season to shore up their middle linebacker position. Martinez will immediately plug the void and act as their bonafide starter.

Martinez has four years of NFL experience with the Green Bay Packers, starting all 16 games in his last three campaigns. He will be 26 years old in 2020 with the Giants, and he’s coming off three consecutive seasons of leading the NFL in tackles.

What the Giants are getting in Martinez is essentially a fantastic cleanup linebacker who will limit big plays, but also an extremely intelligent player that can diagnose opposing offenses quickly. He made it apparent that the defense he is joining with the Giants is far more inclusive for the middle linebacker position. He stated that Green Bay’s defense did not value the position, and they asked him to be more of a cleanup type of player, which attests to his high tackle totals.

“I was taught and told to be the clean-up-crew guy,’’ he told the NY Post.

“I think the way [the Packers] value the inside linebacker position, especially in that defense, it wasn’t as valued as other places I guess, in my opinion,’’ Martinez said.

Comparing Martinez to Alec Ogletree, who previously played for the New York Giants the last two years — the difference is astronomical. Ogletree never recorded over 93 combined tackles with the Giants, and he posted a 15.8% missed tackle rate last season. Not to mention, he allowed an 83% completion rate and three touchdowns against.

Martinez, on the other hand, logged a 10.4% missed tackle rate but also allowed an 83.8% completion rate against and two touchdowns. However, he was often utilized in a mesh zone scheme, which didn’t allow him to play man coverage and follow opposing receivers. This hurt his coverage stats and was often knocked for being in the area but not on a receiver.

Martinez has 522 total tackles in his career, averaging about nine per game. He also has 10 sacks, 29 tackles for loss, and 17 passes offended. Overall, in a more middle linebacker happy defense, he should be able to maximize his talents and expand on his previous success. While nothing is guaranteed, Martinez is preparing to take a step forward and not a step back.

“Overall, there is going to be a lot of freedom for me to make checks, make calls and adjustments on a given play pre-snap to give guys chances to make plays,’’ Martinez said. “There is going to be a lot of communication across the board.’’

When asked about his transition over to New York and what made him choose the big apple, Martinez stated:

“Going through the process, I just thought about what kind of fit [would be best] for myself, individually, my play style and those types of things,” Martinez said during a Tuesday appearance on NFL Network’s “Good Morning Football.” “Obviously, looking at the potential places I could go to, New York just jumped off the tape for me. Just seeing the guys that are on the team, the young talent across the board, obviously a new head coach [Joe Judge].

“Then my old inside linebacker coach [Patrick Graham] is now the defensive coordinator. Everything kind of just paired together easily. I was just super excited that I had the chance to go be a Giant.”

Reconnecting with Patrick Graham should also be beneficial for Martinez, who had some of his best seasons while he was Green Bay’s linebackers coach. Hopefully, he can adapt to a revised role that expects more of his position, because the Giants desperately need an upgrade over Ogletree, who missed tackles faster than Adam Sandler in the Waterboy.

New York Giants Linebacker Corps: Strength or Weakness?

New York Giants, Giants, NYG, Ryan Connelly

The New York Giants have long been plagued with a weakness on defense. For years, the Giants’ linebacker corpse created a vast hole in their defense. New York rarely invested top assets into the position and it was exhibited by the unit’s performance. New York has worked to correct this error under general manager Dave Gettleman. Gettleman had made multiple key acquisitions at the linebacker position, though not all of them have panned out according to plan.

Alec Ogletree was the first move that Gettleman made to strengthen the middle of the defense. But, as fans know all too well, Ogletree was a severe underperformer in Big Blue and was cut this offseason. Last season, there did seem to bee some improvement in the Giants’ linebacker corps. David Mayo became a serviceable starter, earning a contract extension. Additionally, in the first four weeks of the season, it seemed like the Giants found a gem in Ryan Connelly. Connelly unfortunately suffered a devastating, season-ending injury in the fourth game of the season.

Fast forward to the 2020 offseason: Dave Gettleman has once again prioritized the inside linebacker position. One of the Giants’ big splash signings in free agency was linebacker Blake Martinez. New York then went on to draft four linebackers in the final two rounds of the 2020 NFL Draft, providing the team with plenty of depth at the position.

Taking all this into account, how does the Giants’ new linebacker corps fare? Is it now a strength on the team, or is it still a weakness?

The Positives

The New York Giants’ linebackers excel in run defense. Blake Martinez and David Mayo are both excellent run defenders. Martinez has recorded 144 or more combined tackles in each of the last three seasons. He posted a career-high 155 combined tackles in 2019. In 2018, Martinez only missed 12 tackles (7.7%) and in 2019 he missed 18 tackles (10.4%). Mayo earned a 90.1 run-defense grade according to Pro Football Focus in 2019.

Another positive of the Giants’ linebacker corps is its depth. As stated earlier, Gettleman has invested into the position group multiple times in the past two years. The Giants’ starting linebackers, Mayo and Martinez, will be accompanied by rising star Ryan Connelly once he returns from injury. Behind the three of them are three new rookies drafted in the final two rounds of the 2020 NFL Draft. If injuries strike the linebacker corps again, the Giants have the depth to stay afloat.

The Negatives

The Giants still do not have a linebacker that excels in coverage. Some fans believed this flaw in the unit would lead the Giants to draft Isaiah Simmons in the first round. Evidently, that did not happen, and Giants fans are all happy to have their left tackle of the future in Andrew Thomas.

However, this still does not solve the Giants’ issue pertaining to a coverage linebacker; But a different draft pick just might. The Giants drafted safety Xavier McKinney in the second round. The versatile safety will see plenty of reps in the box as a coverage linebacker. McKinney serves as a possible solution to the Giants’ weakness, but they will still need to see improved coverage out of their linebackers in 2020.

In 2018, Blake Matinez surrendered a 73.8% completion percentage on the 61 targets in his coverage (45 completions). The opposition gained 410 yards on those 45 completions and scored 5 touchdowns. Martinez allowed a 118.9 passer rating when targeted in 2018.

2019 was an even worse performance by Martinez in pass coverage. His completion percentage allowed rose to 83.8%, allowing opponents to complete 62 passes on 74 targets for 570 yards and 2 touchdowns. This is definitely a major red flag for teams interested in signing Blake Martinez during the 2020 free agency period. Blake Martinez must improve in coverage for the Giants’ defense to flourish in 2020.

New York Giants Announce New Free Agent Numbers

New York Giants, James Bradberry

The New York Giants announced the numbers that their newly signed free agents will be wearing in 2020. The Giants announced the numbers for ten of the twelve free agents they signed this offseason. The two players whose numbers have not been announced are Corey Coleman and Casey Kreiter. Coleman will likely wear the same number he wore with the Giants the last two seasons (19) but Casey Kreiter will have to find himself a new number. He wore 42 in Denver but the New York Giants have retired that number.

The New Numbers:

James Bradberry- 24

Colt McCoy- 12

Levine Toilolo- 83

Austin Johnson- 93

Blake Martinez- 54

Kyler Fackrell- 51

Cameron Fleming- 75

Eric Tomlinson- 85

Nate Ebner- 43

Dion Lewis- 33

Numbers of Notice:

James Bradberry will be keeping his number 24 from Carolina. The Giants did have a number 24 on the roster in 2019. Rookie safety Julian Love wore 24 after switching from the number 37 that he wore during the preseason. Love will undergo another number change in 2020. After giving 24 to Bradberry, Julian will switch to number 20 for the upcoming NFL season.

The Giants also gave number 51 to new pass-rusher Kyler Fackrell. This number was occupied in 2019- and the twelve seasons prior. 51 was the number donned by long snapper Zak DeOssie since 2007. But the Giants are moving on from DeOssie this season, signing free agent long snapper Casey Kreiter. So, for the first time in 13 years, number 51 will be worn by a player not named Zak DeOssie.

New York Giants: New Linebacker Blake Martinez Shows Off Insane Home-Training Facility (VIDEO)

New York Giants, Blake Martinez

The New York Giants made a splash this offseason when they signed free agent inside linebacker Blake Martinez. This was an exciting signing for the Giants. Securing a linebacker to replace Alec Ogletree was a big move that needed to be made this offseason. Fans are eager to see Martinez get to work in Big Blue.

However, it could be a while before Blake Martinez gets to put on a Giants jersey and start practicing. The coronavirus pandemic has put a halt on life as we all know it. The NFL’s offseason will undergo major changes regarding offseason programs such as OTA’s and training camp. It is uncertain at this point when exactly the NFL season will kickoff. But do not worry; the Giants’ new linebacker is safely training in his new tricked out facility at home:

 

With almost all of the offseason programs in jeopardy due to COVID-19, the training that NFL players do in their own time will be crucial this year. Rest assured knowing Martinez is training hard at home this offseason. With equipment like this, Blake Martinez will be ready for the 2020 NFL season.