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.