New York Jets 2021 opponent report: Tennessee Titans

New York Giants, Julio Jones

Tennessee lost several key offensive contributors from its recent postseason runs, including current New York Jets WR Corey Davis.

The Opponent: Tennessee Titans
The Date: Week 4, October 3, 1 p.m. ET, CBS (@ NY)
The Series: Tennessee leads 25-19-1 (last meeting: 2018, 26-22 TEN)

Corey Davis earned 984 yards on 65 receptions for the Tennessee Titans last season. A bout with COVID-19 held the fifth pick of the 2017 draft just short of his first career four-digit yardage season. Davis played a major role in each of Tennessee’s last three playoff trips, two of which have seen them win at least one game.

Somehow, Davis got lost in the Nashville fold, leading Titans management to label him expendable.

The Titans’ return to the national spotlight…only three teams have partaken in more playoff games since 2017…has been driven by the breakouts of several explosive skill players, including Derrick Henry, A.J. Brown, Ryan Tannehill, Jonnu Smith, and, of course, Davis. That group…minus Davis and the New England-bound Smith…is now joined by Julio Jones, who is looking to regain his All-Pro reputation after his last season in Atlanta was decimated by injury.

Tennessee will make only its second visit to MetLife Stadium for a Jets game. They last stopped by in December 2015, a 30-8 Jets victory.

The Skinny on the Titans

Following their heartbreaking visit to the AFC title game after the 2019 season, the Titans broke the 10-win ceiling for the first time since 2008, likewise ending their division title drought. Alas, they had nothing to show for it in the postseason, as a first-round exit at the hand of Baltimore awaited.

The Titans’ current landscape and depth could perhaps best be described as top-heavy. Tannehill is backed up by Logan Woodside and Matt Barkley. Henry’s top spell option is Darrynton Evans, a third-round pick who was limited to 54 yards in an injury-plagued rookie year. They’ll once again be must-see television…as long as they stay healthy.

So what’s been the big problem in Tennessee? The Titans have learned the hard way that defense still wins championships. After losing their chance at the Super Bowl by surrendering a two-possession lead in just over five minutes against the Kansas City Chiefs, Tennessee ranked at or near the bottom in most major defensive categories. The team did muster 15 interceptions…third-best in the AFC…but one of the leaders, Malcolm Butler, has moved on to Arizona.

Despite their lack of depth, the Titans are likely the unanimous favorite in the reeling AFC South, at least until the Indianapolis Colts find a proven quarterback. Houston has far too much to prove, while it’s going to take a lot more than the arrival of Trevor Lawrence for the Jacksonville Jaguars to become relevant again.

New York Giants, Daniel Jones
Mandatory Credit: Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports

What’s New in Tennessee?

In bidding farewell to their offensive depth, the Titans sought to bolster the weak defense. Before Jones arrived late, their marquee addition was former Pittsburgh linebacker Bud Dupree. The ex-Steeler is coming off an ACL tear but was nonetheless bestowed an $82.5 million contract to help solve their issues. Dupree was removed from the physically unable to perform list last week and has begun practicing.

“Anytime you get paid to pass rush, you go ahead and get sacks and make big plays in the run game, be an all-around player,” Dupree said of his role in his new home in a June episode of NFL Network’s Good Morning Football. “You don’t just come in just to be a one-trick pony and just do pass rush. You’ve got to be able to be a tone-setter on the edge, as well, swarming to the ball, stopping the run, evolving your teammates, getting everybody hyped up.”

In addition to Dupree, the Titans also welcomed Denico Autry to bolster the pass rush after three successful years with the Colts. Tennessee also opted to use their top draft pick on defensive help, welcoming Virginia Tech cornerback Caleb Farley, who should fill the void Butler left behind.

Though well accomplished…Tannehill has become a reliable starter, Henry is a downright historic, game-changing rusher, Brown and Jones should be a deadly aerial pair…the Titans’ offense has something to prove. Coordinator Arthur Smith earned a head coaching job in Atlanta for his work over the past two seasons, leaving tight ends coach Todd Downing to take over. Downing previously won Pro Football Focus’ Quarterbacks Coach of the Year Award for his work with Derek Carr in Oakland.

New York Giants, Caleb Farley
Mandatory Credit: Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

How to Beat Them

-Jump the Defense

The Titans’ return to the national spotlight is reminiscent of their turn-of-the-century heyday. Back then, they had Steve McNair, Eddie George, and Derrick Mason. Nowadays, it’s Tannehill, Henry, and Brown/Jones pairing.

But there’s a difference: the former group’s offensive fireworks were accentuated by the equally effective defensive work of Jevon Kearse and Samari Rolle.

The Jets’ mission is thus relatively simple in the theory that they must force the Titans’ defense to win the game. By the time Tennessee comes to visit, the Jets will have had three games to build offensive chemistry. That’s obviously not the most experience together, but it can be enough to take advantage of a Tennessee defense that was already dealing with issues. They can’t let the Titans’ offensive arsenal decide the game.

-Take a Passing Interest

What Tannehill has been able to do in Nashville is inspiring and deserves to be recognized. After a seemingly endless streak of proverbial make-or-break seasons in Miami, Tannehill has forged a long-term NFL path as the Titans’ franchise quarterback.

Yet, he can’t fully bear the load of an offensive box score. Since he entered the league in 2012, Tannehill teams are 4-18 when he throws at least 40 passes. The Titans have taken note…only three of those instances have come in Tennessee.

Forcing Tannehill to win the game obviously then leads to containing Henry, the defending Offensive Player of the Year and 2,000-yard rusher. The Jets’ run defense should enjoy a boost from the return of Kyle Phillips, one of the team’s top run defenders during his 2019 debut before injuries ate up his sophomore season. Former Robert Saleh pupil Ronald Blair should likewise help keep the run game grounded, as he was one of San Francisco’s top rush defenders off the edge.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

Three reasons why the New York Jets will be fine without Julio Jones

New York Giants, Julio Jones

Some were disappointed that the New York Jets removed themselves from the Jones sweepstakes, but adding the former Falcon wasn’t their fight.

Julio Jones will sing a new tune in the Music City. The accoladed receiver has shed his Atlanta Falcon wings and has moved on to Tennessee, where he joins a Titans squad already blessed with the offensive talents of Derrick Henry and AJ Brown. Thus ends a saga that ignited with a fateful phone call on live television by Fox Sports’ Shannon Sharpe.

In the aftermath, the eventual price for Jones has been hotly debated. Tennessee sent over two mid-round picks, one each over the next two drafts, the highest being a second-round choice in next year’s selections. It seems like a relatively low charge for one of the most accomplished receivers in recent NFL memory, one that gains some context when a hamstring injury suffered last season is taken into account.

Still, as Jones prepared to don Titans blue, fans of the 31 outliers are left with the lingering inquiry of “what if?” and “why not”?

At first glance, many New York Jets fans have every right to ask those questions. After all, if that was all it took for Jones to leave his Atlanta-based nest, the Jets could’ve spared the necessary parts to bring him in. They have an extra pick in both the first and second rounds of next year’s draft stemming from the Jamal Adams and Sam Darnold departures. One could even argue that adding Jamison Crowder (and getting back over $10 million in cap space with Jones) to the mix might’ve sweetened the deal.

But the Jets are more than capable of surviving the lack of Jones in their lives, as consolation lies all around them…

The Jones Privilege

Adding Jones has given the Titans the dreaded title of “offseason champions”, as amateurs and experts alike will probably list them as their Super Bowl champions. They likely inherit the title from the Arizona Cardinals, who were burdened with expectations after acquiring DeAndre Hopkins in a one-sided trade with Houston. Arizona began the year 6-3 but dropped five of their final seven in missing out on the playoff entirely.

Time will tell exactly how Tennessee handles the pressure, but it’s hard to be too cynical about their chances, at least on paper. The Titans are, after all, only two years removed from an appearance in the AFC title game and are coming off their first division title since 2008. They’re tied for the seventh-best record in the NFL over the last two seasons. During his unscheduled on-air conversation with Sharpe, Jones insisted he wanted to be dealt to a contender, ruling out Undisputed co-host Skip Bayless’ Dallas Cowboys…and, by process of elimination, the Jets.

Acquiring Jones is a first-world problem of sorts, a privilege bestowed to those who are the proverbial “one move away” from the Super Bowl. The Jets are a few moves away from merely fighting for a wild-card berth, never mind The Big Game. Even if they undoubtedly got better this offseason…if only because there was nowhere to go but up after the Adam Gase era…emerging from a crowded AFC pool packed to the brim with established contenders seems like a tall ask. There’s thus no use in taking the uncertainties of post-injury Jones, who turned 32 in February, not to mention the financial obligations that come with it (over a $63 million cap hit over the next three seasons).

No Co-Authorship

One of the primary focuses of this New York offseason has been establishing a new identity, leaving a signature on a new exhibit. Through the hiring of new head coach Robert Saleh, the Jets have managed to do that. The former San Francisco defensive coordinator’s mantra of “all gas, no brake” has already been quoted ad nauseam by Jets fans and Saleh’s entry has been complemented by the arrival of several touted entries who are looking to take the next steps in their respective careers (i.e. Zach Wilson, Corey Davis, and Sheldon Rankins, all of who were chosen in the first round of their respective drafts).

But if one brings Jones into the conversation, suddenly a new identity emerges. Through no fault of Jones, this latest, most hopeful iteration of the Jets’ rebuild gets boiled down to the “Julio Jones Era” and would’ve rendered a great deal of offseason work meaningless.

There’s no doubt that Jones is fully capable of responding to this challenge and will seek to silence any doubters, particularly his former employers that thought he was “only” worth a second-round choice at best. But the Jets are seeking to scribe their own NFL story and identity, as well as write a comeback story that’s a decade in the making. They don’t have the time or resources to worry about ghostwriting someone else’s.

Good Reception

Obviously, in a perfect world, the Jets snag Jones, and he, at the very least, provides some entertainment during another year of rebuilding where progress won’t always show up on the scoreboard.

But if this year is truly the latest stanza of a seemingly eternal rebuild, the Jets must do what they failed to work during last year’s nightmare: take advantage of a bittersweet and gift and turn things into a year of development.

Simply put, anyone who’s watched a minute of NFL football over the last decade knows what Jones is capable of. If this hamstring issue is the first step of the twilight of his career, it’s better for that discovery to be made on a contender rather than a team in desperate need of answers. Once it became clear that the Jets weren’t going to do anything in 2020, Gase and Co. had a prime opportunity to audition a rushing triumvirate of La’Mical Perine, Ty Johnson, and Josh Adams. They instead decided to give Frank Gore a retirement tour, creating questions about the run game that lingered into the offseason.

The Jets have a group of receivers that, while talented, have yet to show they can handle the duties and burdens that comes with the status of a top target. Corey Davis worked behind Brown in Tennessee. Crowder has been a reliable slot option. There are high hopes for second-round brothers Elijah Moore and Denzel Mims. The receiving depth chart is packed to the brim with potential, but the Jets need more proven certainty to truly contend in the modern league. Rather than going with an option like Jones, who isn’t going to immediately shift the team’s fortunes in a lucrative direction, the Jets should instead focus on developing the attractive alternatives that are already in tow.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags 

New York Giants won’t have to face Julio Jones in 2021

New York Giants, Julio Jones

The New York Giants have a matchup with the Atlanta Falcons set for week three this season, but they have a lucky break that will make things easier. That’s because they won’t have to face the previous top weapon in the Atlanta offense, wide receiver Julio Jones.

After ten seasons with the Falcons, Jones is finally moving on after requesting a trade. It’s been quite the offseason saga and there’s even been articles suggesting the Giants should have traded for Jones. However, that was never really a possibility and the Giants addressed the receiver spot by adding Kenny Golladay and drafting Kadarius Toney.

The team that ended up winning the Julio Jones sweepstakes is Tennessee, who were able to reach a deal with the Falcons that will see draft picks swapped and the Titans taking on Jones’ large contract.

This also, thankfully, means the Giants won’t have to face Jones during the 2021 season. The last time Jones played against the Giants was in 2018, when the Falcons came away with the victory and Jones was targeted 12 times for 9 receptions and 104 yards. While he had no touchdowns in the performance, it’s safe to say his presence on the field had a big impact on the outcome given the narrow margin.

The Giants have improved their secondary since 2018, of course. It looks nearly completely different, and the James Bradberry and Adoree’ Jackson duo is predicted to do big things. But it still helps to have a big name receiver off the schedule, even if the Giants are better equipped right now to contain a player like that. Especially with all the pressure on the Giants to win this season and get off to a quicker start in their early games.

New York Jets: The case for (and against) Julio Jones

New York Giants, Julio Jones

Accoladed receiver Julio Jones wants out of Atlanta; should the New York Jets inquire for his services? ESM investigates…

Atlanta Falcons receiver Julio Jones is ready to recolor his wings. A shade of green could well be in the cards.

Jones declared he was “out of” Atlanta during a candid, impromptu phone call shared by Fox Sports host Shannon Sharpe during Monday’s edition of Undisputed on FS1. There’s been no confirmation over whether Jones knew he was on air but, in perhaps an attempt to interrupt the rare lull on the NFL calendar, hypothetical trades involving the fantasy football godsend have resurfaced. Jones

The accoladed receiver’s de facto trade request serves to end his decade-long tenure in Atlanta. Several teams will undoubtedly embark on a full assault for his services and the crowded resume that comes with it.

Should the New York Jets be among them? ESM investigates…

For: Fantasy Football

Jones has been a staple of the early portions of fantasy football drafts for years. When’s the last time Jets fans were able to choose their favorite players with legitimate dreams of a fantasy title in mind. The last realistic options were probably Brandon Marshall and Eric Decker prior to the star-crossed 2015 campaign.

Now, the Jets shouldn’t base their entire lineup around who wins fantasy football championships; if that were the case, they might as well made a move for Derek Carr. But the fact they haven’t had any fantasy stars in recent years is rather telling about where they are as a franchise. Where are the reliable big play targets? Who does the rookie quarterback turn to in the clutch? Who will teams double cover on the last drive of the game?

This offseason, the Jets used the free agency process to stock up on weaponry for the new franchise quarterback, who turned out to be Zach Wilson. The current depth chart-toppers (Corey Davis, Jamison Crowder, Denzel Mims, Keelan Cole, and rookie Elijah Moore) are undoubtedly upgrades from last season, but they have yet to prove themselves as consistent, reliable top options. Bringing in Jones would make him one of the Jets’ top playmakers of the past decade, and he might not even have to play a single down to prove that. Plus, the confidence Wilson would have with Jones there to greet him could prove invaluable not only in 2021 but for years to come.

Against: Julio’s Woes

The sophomoric nature of the internet and social media have perhaps made the Jets unwilling to take risks or make high-profile moves. Any move they make is going to be accompanied by satirical scrutiny that’s threatens everything they’re trying to work with in the latest stage of their perpetual rebuild.

Jones, through almost entirely no fault of his own, is going to bring some baggage with him. He’s no doubt keen to stick it to a Falcons that has apparently given up on him, and the Jets do have a high-profile matchup with the Dirty Birds that apparently did him dirty (Atlanta will “host” the Jets in London in October). Jones is also trying to emerge from one of the NFL’s most unfair stigmas: returning from an injury. Hamstring issues limited him to nine games in 2020, but he still managed to tally a respectable 771 yards.

These factors make Jones a perfect candidate, perhaps even the favorite, for the NFL’s Comeback Player of the Year Award. Alas, that’s a quest the Jets truly can’t concern themselves with at this point. They have their own comeback/redemption story to write. It’s part of the reason Sam Darnold was let go. Sure, it was entirely possible that a green-clad Darnold could’ve benefitted from the coaching staff shake-up, but the Jets were at a point where they couldn’t base their immediate future on that “if”. The same could apply to Jones and his current endeavors.

For: They Can Help

Coming off three straight losing seasons (including a brutal 4-12 campaign that cost long-tenured Dan Quinn his job), the Falcons need a de facto bailout. As it stands, they’re currently of three teams with under $1 million in cap space (joining Chicago and New Orleans). Even so, they’re obviously going to want a decent return if they’re sending away one of the most prolific names in team history. Jonathan Jones of CBS Sports projects that any potential suitor would have to send at least a second-round pick.

The Jets have expendable assets to help the Falcons out. They own five picks in the first three rounds of next spring’s draft and could even include someone like Crowder (who becomes over $10 million in cap savings upon his departure). If the Falcons are going to trade Jones, something has to capture their fancy, make the deal truly worth their while. The Jets are one of the rare teams with both present and future assets Atlanta potentially covets.

Against: Anything But One Move Away

The Jets have improved by leaps and bounds this offseason, if only because there was little room to plummet further after 2020. Even so, making the playoffs is still going to be a tough ask. They’re trapped in a division with the defending AFC finalists and the other sections are packed with established contenders.

There’s no doubt that Jones can carry the load of a top receiver on a contender. He’s been part of a fairly consistent Atlanta team, but his prescience alone isn’t enough to secure a playoff berth. If he’s serious about moving, he’s likely going to choose a more established destination, not one where a majority of the starting lineup is undergoing a makeover.

Additionally, whoever trades for Jones is going to literally pay a hefty price. His 2021 cap hit exceeds $23 million, with $15 million guaranteed (per Over The Cap). The Jets are one of 11 teams that can handle Jones’ guaranteed salary with their current cap space, but there are other needs that need to be fulfilled before Week 1 kicks off. They’re in desperate need of a backup quarterback (preferably one that can double as a mentor for Wilson) and could certainly use another upgrade in their blocking and secondary areas. Jones, a 32-year-old due over $37 million over the next three seasons, is a luxurious acquisition that doesn’t fit the Jets’ current landscape.

The Verdict: Stay the Course 

If this was a year or two into the Robert Saleh era, adding Jones would be a lot more feasible. There would be time to showcase what Saleh and his staff are building, a few contests to develop momentum in what the Jets hope is their last extensive renovation for a long time.

Recent history suggests that maybe the Jets would be a bit better off in bypassing redemption-seeking superstars, at least for the time being. New York is still picking at the wounds left behind in the wake of the Le’Veon Bell era. The ghost of Bell shouldn’t haunt the Jets forever, but things are still a bit too fresh to justify and work through the growing pains of a superstar seeking to prove to himself and the football world that he’s still capable of an NFL workload.

If the Jets were on the cusp of the contention red zone, they would be right to go all out. But, right now, they’ve picked up a few first downs, but probably haven’t even reached midfield in the stadium of NFL fortune. If they were closer to the Super Bowl, investing a substantial sum into a 32-year-old receiver…one who has taken quite the pen to the NFL record books…would be a relative risk worth taking. But when progress would be possibly defined as an appearance in the “In the Hunt” column seen on the networks’ playoff charts come the holidays, adding Jones is not something you can do and would be an endeavor that would merely leave everyone bitter.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

New York Giants: Is Julio Jones a potential trade target for the Giants?

New York Giants, Julio Jones

One of the greatest wide receivers of this generation is rumored to be on the market this offseason. Could Julio Jones be a good fit for the New York Giants’ offense with Daniel Jones? The Giants should at least monitor the Julio Jones situation.

Jones is one of the best receivers in the NFL and has had an elite career thus far, but is getting up there in age. He is also coming off an injury-filled year. Should the Giants still consider making a move on Jones this offseason?

The Falcons have one of the best wide receiver duos in the NFL with Jones and Calvin Ridley. With the emergence of Ridley, he has shown wide receiver one numbers when Jones has been injured this past season. Matt Ryan, the Falcons’ quarterback, is also aging. Seems like Jones is the odd man out.

Once the new Falcons general manager is hired, he will assess the roster and whether to rebuild the Falcons or stay with the team as is and try to make a playoff push.

Jones has been on and off the field all year, playing only nine games this season. In those nine games, Jones has shown he still got it hauling in 51 catches for 771 yards but only three touchdowns. With Jones missing seven games, you would like to see more touchdowns, but Jones has been dealing with injuries all year.

Questions

The questions all Giants fans are asking right now are, why would we be interested in Julio Jones, and what is it going to cost the Giants to acquire a player like him?

The Giants need a difference-maker on the offensive side of the ball; Jones would be just that. Daniel Jones or any Giants quarterback, at that matter, needs a player they can trust that will go up and get the ball. Jones is faster, taller, and stronger than anyone the Giants currently have on the outside. He is a freak of nature, and from what he has shown this past year, he still can ball.

The cost to get Julio in New York is very hard to say. Jones is 31 currently and aging, it will be hard for the Giants to give up a first-round pick for an aging player. The Falcons traded wide receiver Mohommad Sanu to the New England Patriots for a second-round pick in 2019. If Sanu got traded for a second-round pick, I could only imagine what the Falcons would want for Julio Jones.

Not only will the Giants have to give up assets to get Julio Jones, but the Giants will also have to create a little bit more cap space as well. Jones’ cap hit in 2021 will be around $23 million dollars, which is very high for a wide receiver. In 2022 and 2023, the cap hit will get more affordable, being around $19 million dollars but after that, Jones has an opt-out in his deal.

Forget Julio Jones, draft a receiver:

Would you trade your first-round pick for Julio Jones or keep your first-round pick and draft one of two premier receivers in this year’s draft class? Some really want Ja’Marr Chase from LSU or Devonta Smith from Alabama. Which sounds better, Julio Jones or one of the two rookies?

If the Giants have a chance to go with one of the two premier receivers in this draft class, it will be hard to pass them up. If the Giants miss both of the receivers, that is when I think you could see the Giants try to make a play on a talent like Julio Jones.

Forget Julio Jones and drafting a receiver, sign one:

The Giants will also be looking to sign one of the top receivers in free agency if they do not decide to go with one in the draft. Allen Robinson, Kenny Golladay, Chris Godwin, Will Fuller, Curtis Samuel, and Corey Davis are some of the big-name receivers that could be hitting the open market this offseason.

Robinson is looking to win, which considering the state of the Giants, he might stay away. Golladay has missed 12 games this season and could take a one-year prove-it deal with the Giants. Godwin, in my opinion, will not hit the open market. The Buccaneers will either franchise tag or extend him this offseason. Fuller got caught with PEDs in the middle of the season, but his performance on the field is something the Giants could be interested in. Samuel is more of a number two receiver but could be a good outside receiver with Sterling Shepard in the slot and Darius Slayton on the opposite side. The last receiver we have is Corey Davis, he has ties with safety Logan Ryan from the Tennessee Titans. Davis has been injury-prone much of his career but will fit the Giants scheme if he stays healthy.

What should the Giants do?

The New York Giants have to bolster their wide receiver corps. If the Giants have to trade for a stud like Julio Jones, or sign a big-time receiver this offseason, and or go young and draft an absolute stud receiver. Either way, I do not think the Giants will not leave this offseason empty-handed.

New York Giants: Xavier McKinney’s Career Is Not Doomed After Fifth Metatarsal Fracture

New York Giants, Xavier McKinney

The New York Giants were hit with bad injury news last week, losing two key pieces on their defense. Rookie safety Xavier McKinney and starting linebacker David Mayo were both announced injured. Mayo is expected to miss a few weeks with a meniscus trim, but McKinney is expected to be out much longer.

Xavier McKinney suffered a fractured left foot injury. More specifically, McKinney fractured his fifth metatarsal, the long bone on the outside of the foot that connects to the little toe.

This type of injury is fairly common. Many athletes have suffered this injury, some being pretty big-names. McKinney is expected to miss at least two months as he recovers from this injury. But many fans are concerned that Xavier will not be the same player when he returns. Hakeem Nicks, one of the Giants’ best wide receivers in the Eli Manning-era, suffered the same injury and never returned to the same level he was once capable of. Is Xavier McKinney’s career also doomed by this injury?

How Other NFL Players Have Recovered From This Injury:

Xavier McKinney is not the first player to ever suffer a fractured fifth metatarsal. In fact, a few big-name NFL players have also suffered the same injury and made full recoveries.

Julio Jones

Julio Jones broke his foot in 2013, playing in only five games that season. Since then, Jones has dominated the NFL. Coming back from that injury, Jones was selected to the Pro Bowl in 2014. He was then selected as a First-Team All-Pro in the following 2015 and 2016 seasons. Julio has not missed the Pro Bowl in a season since 2013. Julio Jones made a full recovery from this injury (suffered in his third season) and cemented himself as one of the best wide receivers in NFL history over the course of a career that has not yet ended.

Marvin Jones

Another wide receiver, another Jones, Marvin also made a full recovery from the same injury. During his time with the Cincinnati Bengals, Marvin Jones fractured his fifth metatarsal in 2014. Jones missed the entirety of the 2014 season with this injury. But the following season, Marvin played in all 16 games and put up 816 yards on 65 receptions. Jones is still in the league, providing quality performances from the slot for the Detroit Lions, all these years removed from a fractured fifth metatarsal.

Ben Roethlisberger

Not just wide receivers have recovered from fractured feet. The sport’s most valuable position is not immune to injuries. Long-time Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger is another one on the list of star NFL players who have recovered from a fractured fifth metatarsal.

Big Ben broke his big foot in 2010. Ben suffered the injury towards the end of the year, so he only missed the final four games of the season. But this was not an injury that Ben carried into 2011, or throughout the rest of his career. Roethlisberger returned to start in 15 games in 2011 and make one of his six career Pro Bowls. Ben Roethlisberger has continued to stand on that foot in the pocket and deliver big-time throws over the past ten years.

Stephon Tuitt

Moving to the defensive side of the ball, the Steelers have another solid player to add to this list. Stephon Tuitt, one of the NFL’s most consistent defensive tackles of the last six years, also suffered a fractured foot at one point. This situation could be the most comparable to Xavier McKinney, too, because of the timing of Tuitt’s injury.

Stephon was drafted in 2014, but he did not participate in the 2014 NFL Scouting Combine due to a fracture in his fifth metatarsal. Tuitt suffered this injury in college and, subsequently, played a very limited role in his rookie season. Tuitt appeared in all 16 games, starting 4 of them, but he only played 40% of the Steelers’ defensive snaps.

The next season, Tuitt’s role expanded as he played 79% of the defense’s snaps. Tuitt is still one of the Steelers’ starting defensive lineman, to this day. He did suffer another injury in 2019, missing ten games, but this injury was unrelated to his foot injury. Tuitt tore his pec in 2019.

Derwin James

Another player to compare Xavier McKinney to is Derwin James. After a dominant, All-Pro rookie season in 2018, Derwin James suffered a fractured fifth metatarsal during training camp in 2019. James missed the first twelve weeks of the 2019 NFL season. This is the timetable expected for McKinney. He should be back around Week 13 for the Giants.

Derwin returned to the Chargers’ starting lineup in Week 13. He was not limited in any way, playing 98% of the team’s defensive snaps in Weeks 13 and 14, then 100% of the snaps in Weeks 15, 16, and 17. Of course, as it would be expected, Derwin James was not the dominant player in those final five games that he was in his rookie season- he had some rust to oil off. But Derwin was still playing at a high level after returning from this injury.

Derwin James earned an 82.3 overall grade by Pro Football Focus in those final five games, making him one of the highest-graded safeties of the 2019 NFL season. Granted, he only played 299 snaps, but he was still a solid player during that time frame. Derwin James recovered from the fractured fifth metatarsal injury and returned to form in only twelve weeks.

What Does This Mean For Xavier McKinney?

Xavier McKinney’s career is not doomed by his foot injury. Many Giants fans were scared when they first heard the news of McKinney’s fractured foot. Hearing the term “fifth metatarsal” gave them flashbacks to Hakeem Nicks and his injury from 2012. But Hakeem is just one example of a player who suffered this injury. Many other players have suffered the same injury, fully recovered, and gone on to continue successful careers.

Even at the safety position, Derwin James recovered and made an impact towards the end of the 2019 season. McKinney and James have a similar playing-style, too. Giants fans will see Xavier McKinney suit up this season, barring unforeseen complications. But the likely outcome in this situation is that Xavier McKinney fully recovers from this injury and goes on to have a successful career for the New York Giants.