New York Giants: How Xavier McKinney and Oshane Ximines can transform the defense

New York Giants, Xavier McKinney

The New York Giants have adopted a one-word mantra, that being “youth.” Establishing a foundation of young and hungry players is an essential part of building an NFL roster capable of winning at a high-level. As we saw several years ago with Jerry Reese, spending millions of dollars on overextended veterans can be a short-term fix but ultimately does not promote success in the long run.

While Dave Gettleman hasn’t perfected the art of the rebuild, he has established a young group at multiple positions, including in the secondary, outside linebacker, offensive line, and a quarterback/running back.

This team is completely different than it was just a few with years ago, and that is a great thing considering the bad contracts that were plastered across the board. In addition, Gettleman began to take a different approach toward the draft as the previous regimen focused on skill position players. Some may argue that Saquon Barkley fits the mold of the Reese-era, but spending the fourth overall pick on a left tackle changes the narrative.

There are two players that could transform the defense moving forward, and they follow the youth agenda that Gettleman has instituted since his tenure began in 2018.

Xavier McKinney and Oshane Ximines represent what the Giants’ defense could look like in the future. Fast, versatile, strong, and efficient. Both players have the tangible traits to develop into premium level players in the NFL, but the intangibles also stand out among the rest.

McKinney is a diverse safety that can move up close to the line of scrimmage and drop back into the defensive secondary to act as a ball hawk. He’s a steal at the top of the second round. If the draft hadn’t been so stacked in the first round, McKinney would have easily went earlier. The Giants were blessed with his availability, and they are gaining a surefire tackler, a turnover machine, and an intelligent player to add to their secondary. Now, he must adapt to the NFL game, which promotes a more physical and aggressive style.

Ximines, on the other hand, played in 45% of defensive snaps last year, recording 4.5 sacks and 9 quarterback hits. He didn’t miss a single tackle and showed impressive pass rush moves coming out of a smaller school in Old Dominion.

Oshane displayed an ability to bull-rush, use chops and stab shoulders with strong hands last season. If he can improve upon his already existing pass rush moves, he could establish himself as one of the top options at outside linebacker for the Giants.

In a new defensive scheme, set forth by Patrick Graham, we can expect the pass rush to be schemed to a degree. I anticipate a mesh of 3-4/4-3 base sets with rotating OLBs and delayed blitzes. It’s important to mention Graham played 50% man-coverage last year and blitzed 41% of the time on third-down.

They will also rely heavily on the interior defense to apply pressure in the trenches and collapse the pocket, forcing opposing quarterbacks to move and, hopefully, end up in the grasps of players like Ximines.

New York Giants: Will 2020 Be Oshane Ximines’s Breakout Season?

New York Giants, Oshane Ximines

The New York Giants invested many assets this offseason in their defense. The team drafted a safety, cornerback, and multiple linebackers in the 2020 NFL Draft. In free agency, New York’s two splash signings were defenders too; cornerback James Bradberry and linebacker Blake Martinez.

The Giants will enter 2020 with a brand new secondary and a brand new linebacker corps. One position, however, that the team did not invest a lot into is arguably their biggest weakness: the pass-rushers. New York signed only one edge rusher in free agency, Kyler Fackrell. Other than Fackrell, the team’s edge rushers are unchanged. Oshane Ximines, Lorenzo Carter, and, likely, Markus Golden will be the team’s pass-rushers.

Last season, Markus Golden was a pleasant surprise. The veteran totaled 10 sacks in his first season with the team. On the flip side, Lorenzo Carter was a bit of a disappointment in 2019. After a solid rookie season in which Carter totaled 4 sacks in 441 snaps, Lorenzo followed it up with only 4.5 sacks in 723 snaps in 2019. Lorenzo Carter did not develop in his sophomore season the way fans expected him to. But what about Oshane Ximines?

Oshane Ximines was the Giants’ third-round pick out of Old Dominion in 2019. He too had a solid rookie season. But heading into his sophomore season, will Ximines breakout or disappoint?

Oshane Ximines Stats and Highlights

Statistically, the rookie seasons of Oshane Ximines and Lorenzo Carter are very comparable. Both players started 2 games, totaled 4.5 sacks, and were efficient tacklers. Each player recorded 0 missed tackles in their rookie seasons. However, Carter also attempted far more tackles than Ximenes. Ximines totaled only 25 combined tackles in 2019, while Carter recorded 43 in 2018.

It is interesting to note that X-Man recorded 18 less combined tackles in 45% of defensive snaps that Carter did in 40% of defensive snaps. Another interesting thing to note is Ximines’s lack of quarterback pressures. He recorded only 12 pressures in 28 blitz attempts, compared to Carter’s 19 pressures in 32 blitz attempts as a rookie in 2018.

Oshane’s 42% pressure rate is solid, but not nearly as impressive as Lorenzo Carter’s pressure rate of 59% as a rookie. However, Carter suffered a fall from grace in 2019, recording only 23 pressures on 78 blitz attempts, a pressure rate of 29%. He also had a missed tackle rate of 15.1%, indicating further a clear regression in his performance during his second season.

Lorenzo Carter took a step backward in year two. That doesn’t mean that Oshane Ximines will regress too, but, upon analyzing his statistics, it does not appear highly likely that Ximines will have a breakout season in 2020. A larger role could lead to increased productivity, but that is what Giants fans thought heading into Lorenzo Carter’s second season. It might be best for fans to temper expectations heading into Oshane Ximines’s second NFL season.

New York Giants: 3 defenders who could take big leaps in 2020

New York Giants, Jabrill Peppers, Julian Love

The New York Giants are far from being a Super Bowl-caliber team in the NFL, but they are well on their way to establishing a successful culture built around hard work and determination. The overhaul of the coaching staff and installment of leaders like Joe Judge, Mark Colombo, and Patrick Graham, should positively benefit the team as a whole, but we won’t know until after the 2020 regular season.

While coaching is the first step in the development of players, the product on the field must be adequate to compete against quality teams. The defense for the Giants ranked 30th in the NFL last year, but adding a few solid players this off-season should help them improve on that lowly number.

Here are three New York Giants defenders who could take significant leaps in 2020:

1.) Jabrill Peppers

Jabrill Peppers is a player I believe can make a significant jump moving forward, based on the elevation of his stats compared to 2018. In just 11 games, he matched nearly all of his statistical totals from the previous year. His 76 combined tackles, five tackles for a loss, two quarterback hits, three forced fumbles, five passes defended, and one interception represent a good benchmark to build off of.

Peppers has a unique blend of athleticism and game speed, which attributes to his ability to cover tight ends and stop the run. He filled the strong safety position with the Giants in 2019, and he was well on his way to his best season yet before he suffered a season-ending hip injury on a punt return. Aside from his high motor and charismatic personality, Peppers has the ability to be a playmaker and staple on the Giants’ defense.

The Giants recently picked up his fifth-year option, showing their faith in his development and what he has to offer. Under new defensive coordinator Patrick Graham, I believe his role at strong safety will be expanded, and we will see him a lot more in the offensive backfield.

2.) Oshane Ximines

I have been very vocal about the progression of Ximines in recent weeks. In just 45% of defensive snaps in 2019, Ximines posted 4.5 sacks, five tackles for loss, and nine quarterback hits. If he can build on these totals and show off his improved pass rush moves, the Giants could be looking at their next premium pass rusher.

Of course, nothing is guaranteed. We said the same thing about Lorenzo Carter last year, and he underperformed significantly. However, I believe they are two vastly different prospects and players. Examiners came out of Old Dominion with an array of pass rush moves that isn’t normal from the lower tier division one school. He has displayed his inability to bulrush, utilize arm shops, and so much more to dominate opposing tackles.

3.) Julian Love

Love is a player that can fill multiple roles for Big Blue on defense, whether it be strong safety, free safety, or covering wide receivers in the slot. I believe Patrick Graham will utilize him in three safety sets next season, paired up with Xavier McKinney and Peppers. I really like the versatility he brings to the defense and how he is adapting to different roles. Having spoken to him several weeks ago, he stated that he played a lot of strong safety in 2019, and his adaptation to the free safety position was a bit tumultuous. He found himself creeping up to the line of scrimmage accidentally, but it was part of his development process.

I believe he will make a significant jump forward in 2020.

Ben Linsey of Pro Football Focus‘ stated that Julian Love was the most underrated player on the Giants’ defense.

NEW YORK GIANTS: DB JULIAN LOVE

The Giants’ secondary has some definite question marks with DeAndre Baker facing possible legal trouble and an unproven group at cornerback behind free agent acquisition James Bradberry. But Julian Love is someone they should feel pretty good about after a promising start to his NFL career as a rookie last season. Love is a guy who graded extremely well at the college ranks as an outside cornerback for the Fighting Irish, earning coverage grades of 83.7 and 90.9 during his final two seasons with Notre Dame. Love followed that up by coming away from the 2019 season with an encouraging 70.5 overall grade despite being a 21-year-old rookie playing a new position. Whether he remains at safety or moves back to cornerback to potentially fill in for Baker outside, Love is a player to watch as he enters his second season.

Is New York Giants’ Oshane Ximines the next big-time pass rusher?

New York Giants, Oshane Ximines

The New York Giants are sticking with a relatively young pass rush unit, even if they do end up retaining Markus Golden for the 2020 season. New head coach Joe Judge and general manager Dave Gettleman used the rare free-agent tender on Golden, which would pay him 110% of his 2019 salary for one year.

However, the core of the outside linebacker unit revolves around Oshane Ximines and even Lorenzo Carter.

Ximines was a third-round pick in 2019, posting 4.5 sacks over just 45% of defensive snaps. As a rookie, he stepped in and made an impact instantaneously, also tallying 12 pressures and 25 combined tackles.

Coming from Old Dominion, Oshane displayed a vast array of pass rush moves that one normally wouldn’t have coming out of a smaller school. He is prepared to increase his production in 2020 and add more diversity to his game.

However, Ximines can only excel if the secondary holds up, and the other pass rushers on the team are able to put pressure on opposing quarterbacks. That is where a player like Carter comes into play, who struggled last season.

Carter is only going into his third season in the NFL, so there’s plenty of untapped potential to be extracted. The Giants also signed Kyler Fackrell, formally of the Green Bay Packers. He last posted a successful season in 2018 (10.5 sacks), when Patrick Graham was his linebackers coach.

The New York Giants are putting their chips on the success of an interesting pass rush grouping:

While this grouping seems like a band of misfit toys, the Giants are building out a defense focusing on the trenches. The interior defensive line consisting of Dalvin Tomlinson, Dexter Lawrence, and Leonard Williams, is meant to disrupt the trenches and put interior pressure on quarterbacks.

Hopefully, their impact will force more turnovers and give the secondary more assistance.

Ximines, though, has the potential to be a staple on the defense moving forward. Posting 4.5 sacks in his rookie season in less than half of defensive snaps is impressive. If he can build on these numbers in Graham’s scheme, his contribution to the team overall will exceed expectations for a third-round selection. Again, he has an imposing number of pass rush moves, and honing down on his fundamentals and strength will put him in a position to succeed.

Graham’s system will include a variety of different blitzing sets — focusing on safeties moving up to show blitz-looks but dropping into coverage. Expect to see a very unpredictable unit that will take time to gel and build chemistry, but the potential of his scheme is sky-high.

Are the New York Giants taking too big a risk on their pass rush in 2020?

New York Giants, Markus Golden

The New York Giants will either have a solid pass rush in  2020 or struggle significantly with the lack of proven talent on the roster. One could argue that the Giants are taking too big a risk with the current pass rushers on the team.

The only player they signed in free agency was Kyler Fackrell, who stands at 6-foot-5 and 245 pounds. His last successful season was in 2018 when Patrick Graham was his linebackers coach. Fackrell tallied 10.5 sacks, 12 quarterback hits and posted a 14.3% missed tackle rate. From these numbers, we can conclude that Fackrell was a solid pass rusher two years ago, but he missed a good amount of tackles to pair with his 10.5 sacks. He must improve in that category significantly after posting an 11.5 missed tackle rate in 2019.

Nonetheless, he has proven to be healthy over the course of four years in the NFL, and he lost his starting position to Za’Darius Smith and Preston Smith last year, setting him back in his progression. While there is optimism, he can replicate his 2018 performance, having only one good year as his sample size does not breed optimism. We can hope for the best, but there is a very real chance Fackrell could be a dud.

The Giants are also placing their confidence in homegrown players. Both Lorenzo Carter and Oshane Ximines will play in expanded roles moving forward, despite Carter regressing in 2019.

In nearly double the number of snaps from his rookie season to 2019, his numbers either remained the same or worsened. He only recorded .5 sacks more in 2019 (4.0 –> 4.5), and he logged a 15.1% missed tackle right after not missing a single tackle in 2018. Taking that far of a step backward might actually be a good thing because we know what he’s capable of and the potential he has.

This season is clearly an outlier, and if you can reverse this negative trend, Carter can be a successful player with Big Blue.

The New York Giants could have a stud in Oshane Ximines:

On to Oshane Ximines, who posted 4.5 sacks and nine quarterback hits on just 45% of defensive snaps in 2019. I anticipate he will earn more reps and hopefully emerge as a quality pass rusher for the Giants. He didn’t miss a single tackle last year, and he showed a wide array of pass rush moves that justify optimism. He utilizes a nice speed rush, arm chops, swim moves, you name it. For a player out of Old Dominion, a lower-tier D1 school, he certainly requires more pass rush moves than the average prospect. I expect big things from him in 2020, and he certainly has the skill set to prove me right.

The next player on the list is Markus Golden, who the Giants placed a free agent tender on this off-season. Ultimately, if he doesn’t sign elsewhere, he will stick with the Giants on a one-year, $5 million deal, which is about 110% of his 2019 contract.

Golden was the best pass rusher for the Giants in his redemption year last season, posting double-digit sack numbers and getting after the quarterback frequently. He was the leader on the defensive line, but the Giants were all but ready to let him walk in free agency before hitting him with a relatively cheap tender. If he sticks with the team, the Giants could have a solid pass rush to work with.

It is also fair to mention that defensive coordinator Patrick Graham utilizes a schemed pass rush, including linebackers and safety blitzes. The Giants also bolstered the interior of their defensive line with Leonard Williams, to help the outside linebackers put pressure on opposing quarterbacks. This defense is going to rush the passer on all different fronts, so we should expect a unique system that focuses on unpredictability.

New York Giants: 2 defensive players have breakout potential in 2020

New York Giants, Dexter Lawrence

Taking a look at three defensive players for the New York Giants that could break out in 2020:

The Giants’ defense ranked 30th in points allowed during the 2019 season, allowing an average of 28.19 points per game. In the yards allowed section, they ranked 25th, allowing 377.31 yards per game. Ultimately, the Giants ranked 20th or worse in nearly every category. One of the more problematic statistics was their -17 turnover differential, showing how much they actually lost the football on offense and forced their defense out onto the field.

Increasing their time of possession to allow the offense more opportunity is essential, and that starts with Daniel Jones’ ball security and taking time off the clock with the running game. However, the defense must step up significantly moving forward, and these three players could make a significant difference in 2020.

1.) Dexter Lawrence

The former Clemson standout had a solid rookie season, playing in all 16 games and logging 63% of all defensive snaps. He recorded 38 combine tackles, 2.5 sacks, and nine quarterback hits. His 11.6 missed tackle rate was a bit too high, but for a rookie, Lawrence played admirably.

A year of experience under his belt should promote further development, and gaining Leonard Williams on the line should also help his productivity increase. The Giants expect Lawrence to be a big run stopper and also put pressure on opposing quarterbacks, given the 3-4 base scheme.

2.) Oshane Ximines

Ximines is one of my favorite players going into year two for the Giants, and his 4.5 sacks on just 45% of defensive stats make him a prime breakout candidate. He missed zero tackles last season as a rookie and got after the quarterback well, knocking down the quarterback three times and collecting 12 pressures.

The big storyline is the Giants might have a weak pass rush next season, but I believe Oshane can be a significant factor for them. Considering Graham’s desire to utilize linebackers and safeties in a schemed pass rush, this unit could be vastly underrated.

New York Giants: Why Oshane Ximines Will Take A Leap In 2020

New York Giants, Oshane Ximines

The New York Giants are looking to improve their record in 2020. After a disappointing 4-12 2019 season, the Giants upgraded their roster’s talent significantly. New York made a few key acquisitions on the defense in free agency. They then bolstered up the offensive line and secondary in the 2020 NFL Draft.

Despite improving nearly every positional group on the roster, there is one group that went mostly untouched. This position was one of the roster’s significant weaknesses, too. The Giants did not do much to upgrade their pass-rush, signing only one edge rusher in free agency and drafting not one player at that position.

Many fans have complained about the lack of assets invested in the edge position. There is a large portion of the fan base that wanted to see the team make a run at Jadeveon Clowney in free agency. Instead, New York signed Kyler Fackrell, an underrated addition that could help improve the pass-rush tenfold. But there is a player on the roster who could take a leap in 2020 and become the team’s primary pass-rusher: Oshane Ximines.

Underrated 2019 Performance

Oshane Ximines does not get enough credit for his performance in 2019. As a rookie out of Old Dominion, Ximines stepped in and made an impact instantly. In limited playing time, the rookie totaled 4.5 sacks. He also recorded 25 combined tackles and 12 pressures.

Ximines was used as a rotational pass rusher in 2019. Being from a small school like Old Dominion, the Giants wanted to ease him into the NFL. But now, with a year under his belt, Oshane is ready to expand his role in 2020.

An Increased Role In 2020

Oshane Ximines played only 45% of the Giants’ defensive snaps in 2019. Tallying 4.5 sacks and 12 pressures in 503 snaps is an impressive feat. Oshane should see his snap total increase in 2020 and, thus, his statistics will improve, too.

Teammate Lorenzo Carter is a comparable player for Ximines. Carter played 40% of snaps as a rookie in 2018. In 2019, he saw his snap percentage increase to 65%. Carter did not exactly improve his performance in the more expansive role, though. His sack total went from 4 to 4.5. This lack of improvement made Carter one of the more disappointing players in 2019.

But Ximines seems ready for an expanded role in 2020. And luckily for Oshane, the Giants’ new defensive coordinator, Patrick Graham, knows how to scheme up some pressures.

New York Giants: 3 breakout candidates for the 2020 season

New York Giants, DeAndre Baker

Taking a look at three New York Giants players that can break out in 2020:

The New York Giants made it a priority to boost both sides of the ball this off-season through the NFL draft and free agency. However, the success of the team moving forward heavily relies on the 2019 draft class and their development.

The Giants added quarterback Daniel Jones, interior defender Dexter Lawrence, and cornerback DeAndre baker all in the first round. While Jones and Lawrence had successful rookie campaigns, Baker struggled significantly and failed to leave his mark on the field.

In 2020, the defense, which is the youngest of the units, must step up in a big way and show progress from last season.

Here are three breakout candidates for the Giants in 2020:

1. DeAndre Baker

Baker played in 16 games last season, and at just 22 years old, he still has plenty of time to reach his potential. Compiling 61 tackles, two for a loss, and eight passes offended, he was a bit all over the place in terms of production. He didn’t record an interception and was quite poor in the tackling department. He missed 9% of his tackles and allowed a 61.4% completion rate. The most troublesome statistic is the number of touchdowns he allowed, which was six. He allowed it 116.2 passer rating against opposing quarterbacks.

His struggles primarily landed on James Bettcher, who inefficiently utilized him. Baker was known to be a more refined man/press cover corner coming out of Georgia, but Bettcher employed him as an off-ball player in a heavy zone scheme. Defensive coordinator Patrick Graham will utilize him in mostly man coverage, which he used 50% of the time in 2019. That should benefit Baker significantly.

2. Oshane Ximines

Ximines is one of my favorite breakout candidates for 2020. On 45% of defense of snaps in 2019, the 23-year-old posted 4.5 sacks and nine quarterback hits. He didn’t miss a single tackle and earned five tackles for loss on top of it all. He was quite efficient for a rookie third-round selection, and he has the potential to be a staple for the Giants at outside linebacker. Patrick Graham will likely utilize him as a starter alongside Markus Golden if he ends up staying with the Giants.

If the Giants can extract the most out of Ximines in 2020, he can resurrect a pass rush that has been quite inadequate the past few seasons. An improved secondary should also allow him more time to get after the quarterback.

3. Darius Slayton

Jumping over to the offensive side of the ball, wide receiver Darius Slayton is the third breakout candidate. Having posted 740 yards and 8 touchdowns in his rookie season, leading the team in both categories, he is set to make a sizable developmental jump next season.

While he had shaky hands at some points, posting a 57.1% catch rate, he developed nicely after starting rookie minicamp, dropping everything in sight. He played on just 66% of offensive snaps, and seeing an uptick in that category and remaining healthy should allow him to cement himself as Daniel Jones’s top option. As a fifth-round pick, most expected him to be more of a project, but he has defied all odds and established himself as a starter moving forward.

The New York Giants’ pass rush could come together nicely in 2020

New York Giants, Oshane Ximines

Taking a look at the New York Giants‘ pass rush and how it could come together in 2020:

This week the Giants used the rare free agent tender to lock down Markus golden for the 2020 season. This does not guarantee his services but rather grants the Giants rights over his contract next season unless he can find a different team to play for that is willing to pay a higher price. The deal would be 110% of his 2019 contract, so he would earn around $5 million next season if he fails to sign elsewhere — a low number for a player who racked 10 sacks last year.

This would be a huge boost to the Giants’ defensive unit that was scheduled to lose Golden in free agency. The only allocations they spent in free agency toward a replacement was for Kyler Fackrell, who recorded 10.5 sacks in 2018 but fell into a reserve role last year, playing just 40% of snaps and logging one sack on zero starts.

His playing time fell off tremendously after defensive coordinator Patrick Graham left the Green Bay Packers and moved on to the Miami Dolphins. However, Graham and Fackrell will reunite this upcoming season in New York, in the hope is they can replicate is 2018 performance. Prior to Golden receiving the tender, the Giants were expected to elevate Oshane Ximines, their third-round draft pick in 2019, to a more significant role.

Ximines had a solid rookie campaign, playing in 45% of defense of snaps and recording 4.5 sacks. In an increased workload, the expectation is that he can post reasonable numbers and utilize his array of pass rush moves to help the defense. With minimal cap space available, the Giants weren’t in a position to allocate elite pass-rusher money in the market, which forced them to rely on Fackrell and Oshane before Golden re-entered the picture.

A unit consisting of Golden, Ximines, and Fackrell would be able to generate enough pressure to help the Giants succeed in 2020. Considering how much they spent on the secondary this off-season and the drafting of Xavier McKinney, the unit should be improved. Patrick Graham is known for his blitzing schemes and heavily involving linebackers and safeties, which suggests that the Giants will likely incorporate multiple positions into their system.

New York Giants: 2 surprise breakout players in 2020

New York Giants, Oshane Ximines

Taking a look at two breakout players for the New York Giants in 2020:

The 2019 NFL Draft saw GM Dave Gettleman allocate ample resources toward the secondary, but the players added to the roster didn’t live up to expectations. First-round corner DeAndre Baker struggled in year one, rightfully so due to the challenging transition to the NFL, and both Julian Love and Corey Ballentine experienced minimal reps.

The defense needs to take a significant step forward if the Giants want to be competitive next season, and with Gettleman signing only three free agents to solve positions of need, it’s safe to say that defensive coordinator Patrick Graham has his hands full. The lack of a star pass rusher and unproven talent at inside linebacker could be problematic, but the Giants do have players who can rise to the occasion.

Here are two breakout players for the Giants:

1.) Oshane Ximines

With pass rush a major concern, Ximines has big shoes to fill with Markus Golden expected to move on in free agency. The Giants simply don’t have the necessary cash to sign a proven outside linebacker, which resulted in Gettleman adding Kyler Fackrell on a one year deal to replicate Golden’s production.

Ximines quietly had a solid 2019 campaign, posting 4.5 sacks on 45% of defensive snaps. Compared to Golden, who plays on 83% of snaps, the Giants must be confident in Ximines and his ability to replace the former Giants with ease. I believe the former Old Dominion standout will break out for the Giants next season, simply based on his nice array of pass rush moves and underrated strength.

Adapting to the physicality and speed of the NFL takes time, and with Ximines showing he can keep up in his rookie season, we should see compounded growth on our investment.

2.) Nick Gates 

The offensive line needs some love, and Gettleman made sure to ensure the media that they have tremendous faith in Nick Gates, who featured as a reserve option in 2019. Gates, formerly being an undrafted free agent last season, filled in valiantly at guard and tackle.

Coming out of college, he was projected as a guard due to his lack of upper body strength and anchor, but the Giants may see him as a possible fit at right tackle. I believe his frame suggests he’s more of a center, but I wouldn’t be surprised if the Giants throw him into a position battle at RT and C to see where he fits. Ultimately, I believe Gates will earn a starting spot one way or another and will prove his durability at the NFL level.