New York Giants Minicamp Day One: Main Takeaways

wink martindale, giants

The New York Giants kicked off their 2022 minicamp today. It was a productive day of practice that saw new players and new coaches unite as they begin to lay the groundwork for the new schemes. Mandatory minicamp is the last step in the offseason program before they break until training camp. It is an important time for the new coaching staff to implement schemes and take a sneak peek at the roster’s talents.

Wink Martindale’s defense wins the day

The talk of the day was new defensive coordinator Wink Martindale and his players dominating practice. The defense “simply looks better than the offense right now” and was the much better group during 11-on-11 drills today. Martindale’s blitz-heavy scheme was in full throttle, constantly pressuring quarterback Daniel Jones and keeping the offense in check all afternoon.

Martindale is throwing different looks at the offense just about every play, blitzing safeties, having edge rushers drop into coverage, going with extra defensive backs … it’s a lot for a new-look offense to handle. – Zack Rosenblatt on Wink Martindale’s defense during the first day of minicamp via NJ.com

Rookie safety Dane Belton was used in some defensive back blitzes today, providing pressure to the quarterback. Martindale was creative and kept the Giants’ offense guessing.

“Wink came out with some Wink stuff today.” – Jon Feliciano via Art Stapleton

One thing to keep an eye on with Brian Daboll’s new offensive scheme is the running backs being utilized in the receiving game. Three different running backs caught a touchdown pass today. Saquon Barkley caught one from Daniel Jones, Matt Breida from Tyrod Taylor, and Antonio Williams from Davis Webb. Saquon Barkley’s involvement in the passing game was “noticeable,” per Jordan Raanan.  Daniel Jones went 13 of 21 passing and was under constant pressure today while Tyrod Taylor demonstrated himself as a major upgrade at backup quarterback (Zack Rosenblatt).

Daniel Jones cleared for contact and other injury updates

New head coach Brian Daboll confirmed today that quarterback Daniel Jones has been cleared for contact. Jones suffered a season-ending neck injury in 2021 but has made a full recovery and is ready to return to the field in maximum capacity.

Key players like LT Andrew Thomas, WR Kenny Golladay, CB Aaron Robinson, WR Sterling Shepard, WR Kadarius Toney, LB Blake Martinez, and rookie EDGE Kayvon Thibodeaux were all wearing red/injury jerseys today. Daboll said it’s still “status quo” for Thibodeaux and Toney as they rehabilitate from their injuries. Giants fans are eager to see those two players in particular get back on the field soon.

Giants and Jets planning to hold a joint practice

After practice today, head coach Brian Daboll revealed plans for an upcoming joint practice. Daboll says the Giants and Jets are planning to get together and practice together sometime this summer.

“Yeah, plan is right now we’re going to do it,” Daboll said. “I think it’s good to practice with the guys from down the street, play in a different conference. I know Coach [Robert] Saleh. He’s a really good coach. We’ve had some good talks. I think it’s a good chance to come out here and be competitive against some other players that you’re not practicing against throughout the summer as long as you do it the right way. We want to treat those guys that they’re just like our teammates when you’re practicing. So, I think that Coach and I have had some good conversations and looking forward to it.” – Brian Daboll via Giants.com

Giants’ DC Wink Martindale details the type of defense he wants to build

wink martindale, giants

The New York Giants have featured one of the league’s most conservative defenses over the past few years, playing a “bend don’t break” style of football. With a questionable pass rush, they relied heavily on dominant defensive backs to help cover the defensive backfield, sometimes for far too long, which put them in a liable spot.

The New York Giants’ defensive scheme is about to change entirely:

However, that “bend don’t break” mentality is about to shift entirely with new defensive coordinator, Wink Martindale. When Patrick Graham took the job for the Las Vegas Raiders, the Giants quickly pounced on Martindale, who is coming off of a disappointing season with the Baltimore Ravens.

The Ravens were plagued by injury at the cornerback position last season, finishing 25th in the NFL in yards allowed per game, but did rank in the middle of the pack, giving up 23.1 points per game. The Giants allowed 24.5 last season, taking a step back from a dominant 2020 campaign.

However, the Ravens allowed the second-fewest points per game in 2020 at 18.9. Considering how dominant the Giants’ defense was that season, Baltimore was far better, ranking in the top 10 in both passing and rushing yards allowed.

Martindale heavily relies on an aggressive Cover-1 defense, which puts pressure on the cornerbacks to stick in man coverage. The system requires two essential factors — a fiery pass-rush who can get the quarterback quickly and sticky corners who are dominant during the earlier potions of routes.

“He tells our defense all the time that we’re building a bully here,’’ said DB coach Jerome Henderson, per the NY Post.

Martindale spoke to the media on Thursday, providing insight into how difficult it is to prepare for his defense:

“You want to dictate to the offense instead of sitting there and letting them dictate to you,’’ Martindale said on Thursday. “I would rather them have the headache and stay up five nights before we play them figuring out what we’re going to do and try to present different looks every time we play — because pressure does break pipes, that’s our philosophy.’’

At times, we’ve seen the Giants’ defense get steamrolled against tougher opponents. However, Martindale’s style always keeps opposing coordinators on their toes, sending blitzers from all different spots. One thing is for sure, this will be an incredibly fun defense to watch, especially after adding Kayvon Thibodeaux with the 5th overall pick in the 2022 NFL draft.

Outside linebackers coach Drew Wilkins went as far as to say that Thibodeaux is a lab-made OLB in the eyes of Wink.

Giants could target linebacker in 2nd round to fit Wink Martindale’s scheme

leo chenal, giants

The New York Giants entirely reworked their coaching staff this offseason. After firing head coach Joe Judge, Brian Daboll took his place and hired Mike Kafka as offensive coordinator and Don “Wink” Martindale as defensive coordinator. Kafka and Martindale are exciting hirings expected to shift the Giants’ schemes significantly. On the defensive side of the ball, Martindale is a proven coordinator who achieved great success for years with the Baltimore Ravens. The Giants need to build their roster to fit Martindale’s scheme, though, and linebacker prospect Leo Chenal might be a perfect fit in the 2022 NFL Draft.

Leo Chenal is an exciting linebacker prospect out of Wisconsin. Chenal is a premium athlete with a refined pass-rushing skillset. Wink Martindale is known to run a blitz-heavy defensive scheme. Linebackers are frequently sent as extra pass-rushers in Martindale’s scheme. The Giants could target Leo Chenal in the second round of this year’s draft and perfectly fit him into Wink Martindale’s defensive scheme.

What could Leo Chenal bring to the Giants?

The New York Giants are in need of reinforcements on defense. Linebacker is a huge need for the Giants with Blake Martinez coming off of an ACL tear and little talent on the roster behind him. If the Giants are targeting a linebacker in the 2022 NFL Draft, Leo Chenal out of Wisconsin makes perfect sense. Chenal is a phenomenal pass-rushing linebacker whose “scheme fit” according to TDN is in a “blitz heavy, aggressive defense with quality coverage options in the secondary.” The scheme described sounds a lot like Wink Martindale’s defensive scheme.

Leo Chenal earned incredibly high grades on Pro Football Focus’s scale. His 92.1 overall grade makes him the highest-graded Power 5 linebacker since 2020. In the 2021 season, Chenal recorded a 91.5 PFF Grade, the highest by a Wisconsin defender since 2014. Leo Chenal totaled 115 tackles in 11 games this past season. He also racked up an insane 18.5 tackles for loss to go along with 8 sacks on the season.

Chenal is a premium athlete at the linebacker position. He recorded a 9.99 relative athletic score (RAS) at the 2022 NFL Scouting Combine. Leo’s score ranked 4 out of 2188 LB from 1987 to 2022. In fact, his athletic score compares very similarly to former Carolina Panthers All-Pro linebacker Luke Keuchly.

Leo Chenal comes in at 6-foot-2, 250 pounds with 31-inch arms and 9.75-inch hands. Comparatively, Luke Keuchly was 6-foot-3, 242 pounds, also possessing 31-inch arms and 9.75-inch hands. Chenal and Keuchly also scored very similarly in the 40-yard dash, 10-yard and 20-yard splits, 3-cone, and the shuttle.

Video Analysis

For further analysis on Leo Chenal and the way he fits into the New York Giants’ defensive scheme, check out the episode of Fireside Giants below!

New York Giants reunite defensive tackle Justin Ellis with DC Wink Martindale

Ravens DT Justin Ellis (71) pressuring Browns QB Baker Mayfield.

The New York Giants are continuing to fill the holes on their roster with low-cost free agency moves. New York went into this offseason well over the cap. New GM Joe Schoen made a lot of moves to free up money for roster improvements. With free agency winding down, the remaining players available are likely to receive veteran minimum contracts. Today, the Giants filled another roster hole with a low-cost contract by signing defensive tackle Justin Ellis.

The Giants lost nose tackle Austin Johnson to the Los Angeles Chargers through free agency this offseason. This left a large gap on the Giants’ defensive line with no solid nose tackle left on the roster. Joe Schoen has seemingly filled that hole by the way of 6-foot-2, 305-pound Justin Ellis. New defensive coordinator Wink Martindale is familiar with Ellis as he coached him for three years with the Baltimore Ravens.

What Justin Ellis brings to the New York Giants

Since being drafted by the Raiders in the fourth round of the 2014 NFL Draft, Justin Ellis has played in 100 regular-season games with 50 starts for the Raiders (2014-18) and Ravens (2019-21). He is a 31-year-old veteran run-stuffer with experience playing in Wink Martindale’s defensive scheme.

Justin Ellis might not provide much in the pass-rushing department. The Louisiana Tech product has totaled 0.5 career sacks through eight years in the NFL. But Ellis has made a decent impact in his career as a two-down run defender. The most productive season of his career came in 2017 when Ellis 48 combined tackles in 16 games with 14 starts.

The last three years of Justin Ellis’s NFL career were spent with the Baltimore Ravens. In 2021, Ellis played 35% of the Ravens’ defensive snaps in the regular season. Wink Martindale was comfortable giving Justin Ellis significant playing time, making this signing one of great value. The Giants are not making a splash with this signing, but they are acquiring a quality player at a position of need with scheme familiarity.

New York Giants: Wink Martindale promises pressure from defense

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In 2022, the New York Giants will look different on both sides of the ball. They have new coordinators for the offense and the defense, and on the defensive side chose to bring in a veteran name. Under their new hire, Don ‘Wink’ Martindale, we should expect to see the defense take a much less conservative approach.

That’s the expectation based on Martindale’s career history, but also based on his words after joining the team. In his first interview after joining the Giants, he confirmed that his defenses aren’t set up to play safe.

“I’m not built that way. We’re not built that way. We like to attack… and pressure breaks pipes on these offenses as well,” Martindale told Giants.com. “I just don’t want to sit back and say, ‘OK, let’s see what you’ve got.’ I want them to sit back and see what we have.”

According to Martindale, his defense will continue to attack the passer here in New York.

“A lot of the times that we had free runners in the past, it’s just been on four-man pass rushes. Now, it’s different guys coming, but I think that’s our trademark. We know how to attack protections, and I’m looking forward to doing the same thing here.”

As well respected as Patrick Graham was as the Giants defensive coordinator, the change to Martindale may be a good thing in disguise. In recent years, pressure has been frequently named as one of the weak areas for the Giants.

In 2022, though, that trend could change. A number of mock drafts have had the Giants taking a pass rusher in the first round, and clearly, the man in charge of the defense is making blitzing a priority.

New York Giants are getting brutally honest DC in Wink Martindale

Don Martindale

In spite of many being happy with Patrick Graham at defensive coordinator, the New York Giants are welcoming a new name to the position. They didn’t have a choice in the matter, as Graham chose to leave for the Raiders. However, from the early looks of things it appears the Giants scored a capable replacement in Don “Wink” Martindale.

Martindale is far from an unknown in the NFL. He was the defensive cooridnator of the Ravens from 2018 until this year, and gained a popular reputation with players as well as a reputation around the league for blitzing. It’s not just recent players that will give Martindale a good review, though. According to some who have worked with him, many of his traits date back to much earlier when Martindale was an assistant in various roles.

Martindale has reputation for brutal honesty

“A lot of people want to please Al Davis or your head coach, but [not] Don,” said Jeff Weeks to NJ Advance Media, who worked with Martindale on the Raiders staff at that time. “That’s how he is. You’re going to get the straight truth. Whatever his opinion is, you’re going to get the truth out of him. That’s what’s great.”

“You need that on a staff. You need people not to be a bunch of yes men, especially in this business. If you want someone to sit in a staff meeting and just call somebody out, you won’t have to, because if it’s going on, Don Martindale will call them out,” Weeks continued. “He’s just brutally honest.”

That trait is especially good for the Giants right now, given the organization’s reputation for higher-ups pushing decisions on the front office and coaching staff.

That’s a reputation the Giants are, apparently, trying to move away from. They made outside hires, after all, for the GM and head coaching openings rather than bringing in company men.

To get better, it takes an honest assessment of what’s wrong in the first place. At the defensive coordinator spot, it looks like there is now someone in place who will help with that.

And with a new front office, the chances look much better for the roster to improve based on that feedback.

New York Giants: 3 Ravens’ free agents Wink Martindale could add this off-season

jimmy smith, giants, ravens

With the New York Giants officially hiring Don “Wink” Martindale as their new defensive coordinator on Tuesday afternoon, we can expect him to target several former players out of Baltimore to help smooth over his transition.

It is not rare to see coaches bring players over from their former clubs, as new head coach Brian Daboll has already done with several practice squad players from Buffalo.

Considering Martindale plays a very specific scheme that focuses on aggression and blitz packages, we should 100% expect him to try and retain some familiar faces to help.

Baltimore doesn’t have a ton of free agent defenders this upcoming off-season, but there are several options the Giants could target on price-efficient contracts.

Three Baltimore free agents the New York Giants could pursue:

1.) CB Jimmy Smith

Right off the bat, the Giants may look to veteran corner Jimmy Smith as a potential acquisition. At 33 years old, Smith is coming off a season where he played in 10 games, starting in just two. He recorded 18 tackles, three passes defended and recorded a 67.1 coverage great, per PFF.

Smith is well accustomed to Martindale’s scheme, and given Smith is a reserve option at this point in his career, the Giants could likely scoop him up for cheap.

Signing Smith to a two-year, $6 million deal might get it done, with an out after the first season.

2.) LB Chris Board

The Giants desperately need more support at linebacker, which is where Chris Board, former Baltimore reserve LB comes into play.

Board made appearances in all 16 games this past season at 26 years old, recording 41 tackles and two QB hits. He posted a 53.6 overall defensive grade, but he would be an incredibly cheap pick-up for the Giants who would help establish the scheme for the linebacker core.

3.) OLB Pernell McPhee

Pass rush is incredibly important to Martindale, ranking 6th in the league last season in blitz rate. Back in 2020, Martindale deployed the most blitz-heavy defense in football, but with injuries decimating his unit last year, he was forced to make a few changes that impacted his strategy.

Outside linebackers are an incredibly important factor in his system, which is why veteran Pernell McPhee could make sense on a one-year deal. At 33 years old, McPhee made 10 appearances, tallying 14 combine tackles, three QB hits, two tackles for loss, and one sack. McPhee isn’t anything special, but at the very least, he’s a veteran leader who can serve as a rotational piece on a minimum deal.

Giants hiring blitzing maestro Don “Wink” Martindale as team’s new defensive coordinator

wink martindale, ravens, giants

The New York Giants have hired their next defensive coordinator, Don “Wink” Martindale. Brian Daboll’s coaching staff is shaping out with this hiring that will fill his last available coordinator position. Martindale will fill the position left behind by Patrick Graham after Graham left New York for Las Vegas last week.

What does Wink Martindale bring to the table?

Don Martindale runs a fast-paced, high-flying defensive scheme that was tremendously successful in Baltimore. No one blitzes more than Martindale.

Ravens Blitz percentage under Don Martindale:

  • 2018- 1st (39.6%)
  • 2019- 1st (54.9%)
  • 2020 – 1st (44.1%)
  • 2021 – 6th (31.1%)

Martindale is a blitz maestro. His blitz-heavy defenses ranked in the top three in the NFL from 2018-2020. Before an injury-filled 2021 season, the Ravens ranked No. 1 in the NFL in fewest yards (307.8) and points per game (18.2) in Martindale’s first three seasons as DC (2018-20).

Don Martindale has been regarded as one of the best defensive coordinators in the NFL during his time in Baltimore. His talent was recognized by the Giants in 2020 when Martindale interviewed for New York’s vacant head coaching position. Ultimately, the job went to Joe Judge, but now, two years later, Wink is joining the Giants’ staff as their next defensive coordinator.

What to expect from Wink’s defensive scheme:

The New York Giants have been running a 3-4 defensive scheme for years now. Patrick Graham utilized a base 3-4 with a variety of unique blitz packages. A blitz-heavy 3-4 defense is exactly what Don Martindale will bring to the Big Apple.

Continuing with a scheme like this will provide at least some continuity for the Giants’ defensive players. But there is a chance that Martindale’s scheme would provide New York with a major upgrade. Not only will the Giants’ pass-rushing improve under Martindale, but their rushing defense should improve, too.

Don Martindale’s rush defense:

The Baltimore Ravens possessed a top-ten run defense in each of the four years that Don Martindale was the team’s defensive coordinator. This past season, the Ravens’ run defense ranked first in the NFL. The Ravens’ banged-up defense allowed only 1,436 yards on the ground in 2021.

For comparison, the New York Giants ranked 25th in the NFL in rushing defense. The Giants allowed 2,193 rushing yards this season. If hired as the next defensive coordinator of the Giants, Don “Wink” Martindale would instantly improve the team’s rush defense while installing an uber-aggressive 3-4 defense that has proven to be greatly successful.

3 reasons the New York Giants should hire “Wink” Martindale to be their new defensive coordinator

Don Martindale

New head coach Brian Daboll and the New York Giants are putting together an impressive coaching staff. Brian Daboll was hired as the next head coach of the Giants this offseason and has already filled two of his three coordinator positions. At offensive coordinator, Mike Kafka takes over. Special teams coordinator, Thomas McGaughey remains. But trouble arose when defensive coordinator Patrick Graham left for Las Vegas. Now, the Giants are searching for Graham’s successor. Among the most exciting candidates is a name familiar to Giants fans: Don “Wink” Martindale.

Don “Wink” Martindale interviewed in person with the New York Giants yesterday, per sources. Giants fans should remember Don Martindale as one of the finalists to land the Giants’ head coaching position the last time it was on the market. In 2020, Joe Judge got the job, but Martindale was interviewed and made it deep in the running. Now, two years later, “Wink” could be in line to join the New York Giants as a defensive coordinator.

Experience coaching a top defense

Don Martindale was recently let go by the Baltimore Ravens after spending 2018-2021 as the team’s defensive coordinator. This move came as a surprise since “Wink” has led Baltimore’s defense to the top of the NFL over the past three seasons. Martindale was with the Ravens from 2012 to 2021, serving as the linebackers coach from 2012-2017.

The Baltimore Ravens defense has been one of the best in the NFL over the last decade. Under Martindale’s leadership as DC, the Ravens ranked in the top-three defenses in the NFL for three of the four seasons. In 2018, 2019, and 2020, Don Martindale’s defenses ranked second, third, and second in the NFL.

An aggressive scheme that matches NYG’s personnel

The New York Giants have been running a 3-4 defensive scheme for years now. Patrick Graham utilized a base 3-4 with a variety of unique blitz packages. A blitz-heavy 3-4 defense is exactly what Don Martindale would bring to the Big Apple.

Continuing with a scheme like this will provide at least some continuity for the Giants’ defensive players. But there is a chance that Martindale’s scheme would provide New York with a major upgrade.

The Ravens had the sixth-highest blitz percentage in 2021 (31.1%). In 2020, Martindale’s Ravens blitzed 44.1% of the time, the highest percentage in the NFL. They also ranked 2nd in the NFL in total defense last season. 2019 was Martindale’s most impressive and most aggressive season as defensive coordinator. That year, the Ravens blitzed a league-high 54.9% of the time and only allowed 15 total touchdowns.

Excellent run defenses

The Baltimore Ravens possessed a top-ten run defense in each of the four years that Don Martindale was the team’s defensive coordinator. This past season, the Ravens’ run defense ranked first in the NFL. The Ravens’ banged-up defense allowed only 1,436 yards on the ground in 2021. Head coach John Harbaugh expressed gratitude to Martindale for the great defenses he ran during his time with the team:

“We have had a great run on defense, and I am very proud of what has been accomplished and the work he has done.” – Ravens HC John Harbaugh on Don Martindale

For comparison, the New York Giants ranked 25th in the NFL in rushing defense. The Giants allowed 2,193 rushing yards this season. If hired as the next defensive coordinator of the Giants, Don “Wink” Martindale would instantly improve the team’s rush defense while installing an uber-aggressive 3-4 defense that has proven to be greatly successful.

2 defensive coordinators the Giants can target after Patrick Graham’s departure

wink martindale, ravens, giants

The New York Giants will now begin a journey to find a new defensive coordinator after Patrick Graham elected to take the same job with the Las Vegas Raiders under new head coach Josh McDaniels.

McDaniels and Graham worked together while in New England years ago, but their connection was strong and clearly, Graham was looking to depart.

After putting together a solid defensive unit in 2020, his group ranked 23rd in points allowed per game this past season, struggling to stop opposing offenses in the red zone. Replacing him will be difficult, considering ownership held him in high regard and the players respected him as a leader, but there are some quality options available on the market.

Two defensive coordinators the New York Giants can target to replace Graham:

1.) Wink Martindale

The first name that comes to mind is former Baltimore Ravens defensive coordinator Don “Wink” Martindale. Martindale has been connected to the Giants on several occasions, most recently as a head coach before the team hired Joe Judge in 2020.

Martindale was a fantastic coordinator for the Ravens all these years, but his unit struggled in 2021 as a result of injury.

Martindale is known for his aggressive style of defense, blitzing heavily and playing tons of man coverage. Graham tried to do something similar at the start of the 2021 season, but his personal struggled to play man, notably big free-agent signing James Bradberry.

Wink’s versatile personality usage and creative blitz packages make him an exciting option at defensive coordinator. However, a coordinator of his style requires a lucrative offense to back it up, something the Giants currently don’t have at their disposal. Being overly aggressive can make a defensive susceptible to big plays, but they also thrive in forcing turnovers and pinning offenses back into bad field position.

2.) Vic Fangio

Next on the list is Vic Fangio, who has also been linked to the Giants on numerous occasions. Recently fired by the Denver Broncos, Fangio is well known for his defensive prowess, working with Jim Harbaugh and the San Francisco 49ers back in the day.

Fangio loves to put pressure on opposing quarterbacks, attacking weaknesses of offenses efficiently. He would be a phenomenal candidate to bring in for an interview at the very least, and given the solid defense he built with a Denver Broncos, his resume speaks for itself.

Vic is known for running a 3–4 base defense, which fits the outside linebacker profile the Giants ran under Graham’s control. Having coached in the NFL for 19 years including five different teams, Fangio has had seven defenses rank in the top 10 in yards allowed per game and eight years where his team finished top 10 in points allowed.