New York Giants: Xavier McKinney expected to play vs Cowboys

New York Giants, Xavier McKinney

The New York Giants will have multiple names missing from their secondary when they face Dallas. However, one of those names might not be Xavier McKinney, who is expected to be available. According ESPN, McKinney is expected to return to the active roster on Sunday after being placed on the reserve/COVID-19 list as a close contact.

McKinney’s presence on the field is an important one for the Giants, thanks to his 70 tackles and 5 interceptions this year. After a rookie season that was slowed down by injury, McKinney is a contender along with Andrew Thomas for the best sophomore season out of last year’s draft class.

But as of now, McKinney’s availability for this next game isn’t guaranteed. The Giants are also missing other key talent at the position – second cornerback Adoree’ Jackson and nickel corner Aaron Robinson will miss the game, due to being placed on the reserve/COVID-19 list.

Practice squad pickup J.R. Reed, who would potentially receive playing time if McKinney is out, was placed on the COVID-19 list on Friday. The problem isn’t just one that’s afflicting the secondary, either. Mike Glennon will have less weapons to work with while filling in for Daniel Jones, as the Giants are also missing Kadarius Toney and John Ross for the same reason.

There’s been some debate around the league about whether teams like the Giants should have to play in this state at all, or if the games should be rescheduled. Even though the game is going ahead and the Giants are obviously at a disadvantage with their current reduced depth, fans can at least take comfort in the fact that the team is already out of the playoff race and doesn’t have anything to lose regardless of the result.

The New York Giants have found themselves a stud in the secondary

xavier mckinney, giants

The New York Giants may be struggling this season with a 4–7 record, but they have several players with an upward trajectory and a future with the team.

In the Giants’ most recent went over the Philadelphia Eagles, the defense made a significant impression, holding Philly to just seven points, blanking them in the first half for the first time this season. Patrick Graham’s unit held quarterback Jalen Hurts to just 129 yards through the air and three interceptions, good for a 17.3 QBR. While the pass rush and run defense were spotty, the coverage was incredible, forcing Hurts to make wayward throws and take unnecessary risks where defensive backs were ready to take advantage.

However, one secondary piece in specific had another stand-out performance. Second-year safety Xavier McKinney finished the contest with eight total tackles, two passes defended, and an interception. Xavier dropped an interception on the final drive of the game, but made a streaking run from the free safety spot to undercut a throw to the middle of the field.

The second half of his season has been incredible, posting elite grades over the last three contests. McKinney earned a league-high among safeties 92.2 overall defensive grade this week, per PFF. He also posted a 90.5 coverage grade and 84.2 tackling grade, making two stops and allowing just 14 yards on one reception in coverage. All year, McKinney has only given up 229 yards and has five interceptions to his name, the most of any Giants defensive back by a large margin.

After suffering a fractured foot during his rookie season, McKinney has used the past year to make up for lost time, and he is finally looking like an established player with an understanding of the NFL game. X-man’s game speed and reaction timing have improved the past few weeks significantly, as he comprehends opposing quarterbacks and their tendencies.

At this rate, McKinney is on pace to be a Pro Bowler in the coming years, and he’s already in line for his first appearance this season. At 6’1″ and 200 pounds, McKinney has a ton of potential left to unveil, and at 23-years-old, the Giants have found themselves a budding star in the secondary. With fantastic corners in James Bradberry and Adoree Jackson, all the Giants need is a premier edge rusher to give them the last piece to the puzzle.

While the defense has been playing phenomenal as of late, the offense has lagged behind, but this upcoming off-season offers the Giants an opportunity to change course and correct their wrongdoings on the offensive line.

New York Giants: Xavier McKinney and Quincy Roche excel in PFF ratings

New York Giants, Xavier McKinney

Two players stood out in particular when the New York Giants took their third win of the season. Xavier McKinney was likely the most disruptive player against the Raiders offense, coming away with two interceptions, and Quincy Roche forced the fumble that closed out the victory.

Both players have been recognized by Pro Football Focus for their efforts in week 9. McKinney was the top rated defensive player for the entire week based on PFF’s scores, and Roche had the sixth best pass rush grade.

Much of the praise for McKinney following the recent win is thanks to his pair of interceptions. Overall, McKinney finished the game with 7 tackles and two picks, returning one of them for a touchdown. In both categories, he matched his season highs.

This step up in production comes during a season where McKinney is seeing an increased usage in the defense. He’s played in every game so far, and has played every snap on defense in most of the games.

Quincy Roche, on the other hand, is more of a surprise story. Pittsburgh waived him on August 31, and Roche was picked up the next day by the Giants. However, he didn’t appear until week 3 and it took a few games for him to start getting playing time.

Against the Raiders, Roche put himself on the map with the sack and forced fumble that sealed the game. He played in 72% of the defensive snaps in that victory, showing his increasing role.

And during a season where injuries have been a problem from the start, players like McKinney and Roche stepping up seems exactly what the Giants need to stay competitive despite often relying on the “next man up.”

New York Giants: Why Xavier McKinney will play as much as a starter this season

New York Giants, Xavier McKinney

The New York Giants had one of the best defenses in the NFL last season. The unit features a crowded safety room with a group of talented players. Jabrill Peppers and Logan Ryan are the projected starters at each of the two starting safety positions. But second-year safety Xavier McKinney could still see the field as much as a starter this season.

How Xavier McKinney will see the field so much

The Giants’ 2020 second-round draft pick was sidelined for the majority of his rookie season after suffering a foot fracture during training camp. Xavier McKinney did not see any regular-season action until Week 12 of this past season. He only played five snaps in Week 12 but saw his playing time increase as the weeks went on. By the end of the season, McKinney was playing nearly as much as a starter would. In Week 17 versus the Dallas Cowboys, Xavier McKinney played 74 total snaps (89% of the team’s defensive snaps).

Considering the impact Xavier had in his small sample size of playing time last season, it is reasonable to expect he will get a ton of playing time in 2021. The Giants love running “big nickel” defensive packages. These packages feature five defensive backs on the field like any nickel formation. However, the “big” nickel is the extra safety that is on the field in these packages. The Giants have a group of talented safeties: Jabrill Peppers, Logan Ryan, Xavier McKinney, and Julian Love. In order to get all of these players on the field at the same time, the Giants’ defense could look something like this:

This Nickel 3-3-5 Odd defense manages to get Peppers, Ryan, McKinney, and Love all on the field at the same time. Love slides into that “big nickel” role, playing slot cornerback as a safety. Ryan and McKinney play the two-deep safety positions while Jabrill Peppers creeps down into the box to play some weak side linebacker.

Defensive coordinator Patrick Graham loves to run big nickel formations, and the nickel 3-3-5 package is one of his favorites. Expect to see this formation and personnel package utilized frequently in 2021. This will lead to plenty of playing time for the New York Giants’ second-year safety Xavier McKinney.

The New York Giants’ secondary has a challenging 2021 season on the horizon

The New York Giants’ 2021 schedule features a list of challenges for the team’s secondary. The Giants are set to face off against some of the best offensive weapons in the NFL this season. Wide receiver talent is plentiful in the modern NFL, a revelation the Giants will have this season.

Top wide receivers that the Giants will be facing in 2021:

(* indicates a player selected to a Pro Bowl, + indicates a player selected to an All-Pro team)

  • Jerry Jeudy
  • Terry McLaurin, Curtis Samuel (2x)
  • Calvin Ridley+, Kyle Pitts
  • Michael Thomas+ (maybe)
  • Amari Cooper*, CeeDee Lamb (2x)
  • Robert Woods, Cooper Kupp
  • Robby Anderson, DJ Moore
  • Tyreek Hill+, Travis Kelce+
  • Darren Waller+
  • Mike Evans*, Chris Godwin*, Rob Gronkowski+
  • DeVonta Smith (2x)
  • Will Fuller V
  • Keenan Allen*
  • Allen Robinson*

The New York Giants’ elite secondary

Thankfully, the New York Giants do seem to have the talent necessary to defend against these Pro Bowl and All-Pro receivers and tight ends. The Giants have invested a great number of assets into their secondary over the past few years. These investments have paid off as the Giants now possess one of the league’s best secondaries. New York’s 22 passing touchdowns allowed were tied for the fifth-fewest in the NFL.

James Bradberry

The Giants’ secondary is led by star cornerback James Bradberry IV. In 2020, Bradberry was one of the best cornerbacks in the NFL, earning his first career Pro Bowl selection while being snubbed from the All-Pro teams. He set a new career-high with 18 passes defended, tied for the second-most in the NFL and only two behind Miami’s Xavien Howard for the league lead (Giants.com).

Logan Ryan

James Bradberry was one of two big free agent signings that the Giants made in their secondary last offseason. New York also signed safety Logan Ryan who had a stellar season during his first year with the Giants. Ryan totaled 93 combined tackles, forced 3 fumbles, and hauled in 1 interception.

Jabrill Peppers

Alongside Logan Ryan is another stud safety on the Giants’ defense: Jabrill Peppers. Jabrill had a career year in 2020, setting new career-highs in combined tackles (91), sacks (2.5), tackles for loss (8), and passes defended (11). Peppers is a phenomenal strong safety that impacts the run game and has the coverage skills to lock down tight ends and running backs.

Adoree’ Jackson

If there was one weakness in the Giants’ secondary last season, though, it was at the outside cornerback spot opposite of James Bradberry. The Giants had a revolving door at CB2. They made an effort to fill this hole in the 2021 offseason, signing former Tennessee Titans cornerback Adoree’ Jackson. This signing makes for a significant upgrade. Since 2018, Adoree Jackson has the fourth-highest coverage grade when lined up outside according to Pro Football Focus with a grade of 85.6.

Xavier McKinney

The Giants like to run a lot of three-safety packages on defense. This means that second-year safety Xavier McKinney could see starting-level snaps in 2021. According to Pro Football Focus, Xavier McKinney’s 70 overall grade was on track to be the highest-graded rookie safety of the season in his 212 snaps after coming back from injury, but he did not meet the minimum snap requirement.

Depth

Behind all of these starters, the Giants have plenty of depth in the secondary. Julian Love has proven to be a solid utility player in the secondary. Darnay Holmes and Aaron Robinson will compete at slot cornerback. Players like Isaac Yiadom and Rodarius Williams also provide the team with solid depth. The New York Giants secondary has a challenging 2021 season on the horizon, but it possesses the talent necessary to get the job done.

The New York Giants should run a ton of three-safety sets in 2021

new york giants

The New York Giants‘ defense exceeded all expectations in the 2020 NFL season. They ranked ninth in the league in points allowed per game and twelfth in yards allowed per game. One of the reasons for the Giants’ great defensive success was defensive coordinator Patrick Graham’s creative scheme.

Patrick Graham put his players in a position to play to their strengths in 2020. One of the ways he did this was playing a lot of nickel defensive packages that featured three safeties on the field. Jabrill Peppers and Logan Ryan formed one of the best safety duos in the NFL last season. The Giants also enjoyed the talents of Julian Love, their versatile utility player in the secondary. Towards the end of the season, fans got a glimpse of what the Giants’ defense might look like in 2021 once Xavier McKinney returned to the lineup.

Last year, the Giants loved running three-safety sets. But in 2021, the Giants should run so many three-safety sets that it becomes their base defense. Running these nickel packages will allow the Giants to get their most talented defenders on the field more frequently while also masking any thin depth that the Giants have in their front seven.

Why the Giants should play a lot of nickel defense next season

The New York Giants have put together an excellent defensive unit. Their defensive line has a couple of studs in Dexter Lawrence and Leonard Williams. Blake Martinez has proven to be a premier inside linebacker. But the real strength of this Giants’ defense is now its secondary.

James Bradberry leads the Giants’ secondary as one of the NFL’s best outside cornerbacks. New York paired him with Adoree’ Jackson on the other side this offseason, a duo that could be elite this season. Rounding out the Giants’ secondary are a bunch of young, talented safeties and slot cornerbacks.

Darnay Holmes was impressive as a fourth-round rookie this past season, yet the Giants still went ahead and added another talented nickel corner in Aaron Robinson via the 2021 NFL Draft. Jabrill Peppers is emerging as one of the best box safeties in the NFL who thrives as a moneybacker in Patrick Graham’s defense. And, of course, Xavier McKinney will enter the lineup in his second season. The former second-round pick was thought to be a first-round talent when the Giants stole him in round two. They’ll want to get all of these guys on the field as much as possible.

In order to get Holmes, Robinson, McKinney, and Peppers on the field with frequency, the Giants will need to play a lot of nickel coverage and many packages where the team has three safeties on the field. The Giants did this a lot last year, spending much of their time in a nickel 3-3-5 package. But this season it will be even more crucial that this package hits the field as the Giants try to get Xavier McKinney to establish himself in the NFL.

Additionally, there is not a ton of depth behind Blake Martinez at the inside linebacker position. The Giants’ depth is a little thin there, as it is at nose tackle as well. To supplement this weakness, the Giants should play nickel formations where there are fewer defensive linemen and linebackers on the field. Put that talented trio of safeties and that exciting young duo of slot cornerbacks to work this season.

Giants’ Xavier McKinney fires back at Eagles for purposefully losing game in Week 17

New York Giants, Xavier McKinney

With the New York Giants pushing to win the NFC East in Week 17 of the 2020 campaign, they faced off against the Dallas Cowboys in a must-win game. Thanks to a late interception by safety Xavier McKinney, the Giants walked away victors in the contest, but it wasn’t enough to secure a playoff spot as the Philadelphia Eagles purposefully lost against the Washington Football Team to gift them a playoff appearance.

Of course, for Giants fans, this was a blasphemous move, as the Eagles pulled starter Jalen Hurts and inserted Nate Sudfeld, who threw for 32 yards and an interception to finish off the game.

Even Philadelphia’s own players projected negativity after losing to secure a higher draft selection. However, Giants safety Xavier McKinney expressed his frustration recently on the All Things Covered podcast.

“I would be lying to you if I said I didn’t, man. I’m not gonna lie,” McKinney said. “It was tough. That was my first pick. . . . It was a winnable game for them.”

With the Giants putting it all on the line and desperately needing a Philadelphia victory, not only did they lose purposefully but snagged DeVonta Smith right out from underneath Big Blue in the draft. Philadelphia and the Dallas Cowboys executed a draft-day trade, sending the Eagles into the 10th overall spot, where they subsequently selected Smith, McKinney’s former teammate.

“I turn on the game and I start watching, and I’m like, ‘Damn, they just about to give it up.’ They gave it up, man. It was rough, it was rough to see it happen like that,” McKinney said.

Soon after Doug Pederson pulled Hurts and lost the game, Eagles management fired him due to differing perspectives on the future of the team. Seemingly, they used Peterson as a scapegoat for the transgressions that ensued in the Week 17 defeat to Washington, who made the playoffs with a 7-9 record.

Fortunately, the Giants spent a boatload of money and had a quality draft to further improve the team on both sides of the football. Hopefully, the Giants won’t need an NFC East rival to make the playoffs in the future, instead winning enough games to put a cushion between them and the second-place team in the division.

The New York Giants’ secondary is loaded with talent entering the 2021 season

New York Giants, James Bradberry, logan ryan

The New York Giants defense was one of the league’s best in the 2020 season. Entering 2021, the Giants’ defense has only gotten better. The Giants defense allowed only 22.3 points per game last season, giving them a top-ten unit. Yet, New York still went into the offseason and added even more talent to their defense.

The Giants’ secondary was the strength of the team last year. Cornerback James Bradberry looked like a blanket on the field, consistently shutting down opposing receivers. New York also enjoyed a dynamic safety tandem of Jabrill Peppers and Logan Ryan. However, there were a couple of holes in the Giants’ secondary.

Opposite of Bradberry, New York had a revolving door at their second outside cornerback position. Corey Ballentine, Ryan Lewis, and ultimately Isaac Yiadom saw plenty of reps as the starter. The Giants recognized that position as a weakness and went out to fix it this offseason. Along with a new CB2 in Adoree’ Jackson, the Giants also added depth at cornerback and created an interesting competition at slot cornerback. The New York Giants have loaded their secondary with talent heading into 2020.

The Giants’ talented secondary

James Bradberry, Logan Ryan, and Jabrill Peppers were the stars of the Giants’ secondary in 2020. They also enjoyed the presence of a quality utility player in Julian Love. Xavier McKinney was also impressive at the end of the season coming off of an injury that kept him sidelined for the majority of his rookie season. Take all of this talent, now combine it with plenty more.

Adoree’ Jackson enters the Giants’ lineup as their new CB2. Jackson will allow the Giants to transition back into their more man-press-heavy coverage scheme. Since 2018, Adoree Jackson has the fourth-highest coverage grade when lined up outside according to Pro Football Focus with a grade of 85.6. The Giants got a bonafide CB1 (when healthy) to play CB2 for them on the outside.

Darnay Holmes was an impressive rookie slot cornerback who did not allow a touchdown in coverage during the 2020 season. He will compete alongside new rookie Aaron Robinson out of UCF in the slot. A-Rob is physical and should see a good amount of playing time inside along with Holmes.

Then, of course, Xavier McKinney is entering his sophomore season. Xavier flashed great potential at the end of the 2020 season and will see plenty of playing time in 2021. He could have a major breakout covering the back end of the Giants’ defense.

On top of these talented starting-level players, the Giants added a lot of quality depth to their secondary. Isaac Yiadom started 10 games last year and will be a solid depth piece at cornerback. The Giants also added Rodarius Williams at the back end of the 2021 NFL Draft, another physical man-to-man corner.

The New York Giants took one of their strongest units and made it even stronger in the 2021 offseason. It was hard enough for opposing quarterbacks to move the football against the New York Pass Defense in 2021. The New York Giants’ talent-loaded secondary is going to make Sundays even more challenging for opposing quarterbacks in 2021.

New York Giants: Logan Ryan leads DBs in Tampa training

New York Giants, Logan Ryan

This will be another strange offseason for everyone. The NFL is still affected by COVID-19 and earlier in the year, the New York Giants joined the teams that would skip voluntary workouts due to the risk of the pandemic. However, that doesn’t mean that training is going to come to a complete halt leading up to the season.

While the team’s rookies and free agent tryouts performed at rookie mini-camp, safety Logan Ryan was making sure that the secondary also got in some practice. In this case, the location happened to be somewhere warmer than East Rutherford: Tampa.

Upgrades to the secondary for 2021

It’s important that the Giants secondary gets some experience early on working together because it’s going to be a different group this season. The biggest addition, obviously, is Adoree’ Jackson. With the addition, the Giants finally have a number two cornerback that they can be proud of and he’ll join existing corner James Bradberry, who already had a reputation from last season for locking up the other team’s best weapons.

The Giants will also have last year’s draft pick Xavier McKinney around from the start in 2021, assuming he can avoid picking up another injury in the offseason. While McKinney showed promise, he was only able to get on the field last year by the time things were already headed downhill.

The position group has further depth than it did in previous seasons, too – Jackson is not the only Titan to join them. They also picked up his former teammate from Tennessee, Joshua Kalu, after he finished with a career high 16 tackles.

Players don’t always adapt right away to having new teammates, so it’s good to see the Giants secondary working out as a group already. It may pay dividends later, if it helps the Giants and the secondary specifically avoid another slow start with a number of early season losses.

New York Giants: 3 cornerbacks to consider in free agency to fill void CB2 spot

xavier rhodes, New York Giants

The New York Giants revamped their secondary from 2019 to 2020. They brought in a bunch of new faces this past offseason, signing Logan Ryan and James Bradberry, and the Giants drafted Xavier McKinney in the second-round.

Their secondary was the fifth-worst pass defense in 2019. They allowed 264.1 passing yards per game in 2019, but in 2020, only allowed 237.9 passing yards per game. The Giants were in the middle of the pack for best pass defense, coming in at 16th.

Safety’s Logan Ryan, Jabrill Peppers, and Xavier McKinney are the future, and Bradberry island is a real thing. The G-Men just need another cornerback to go alongside Bradberry.

Here are three free agents the Giants should consider in free agency:

Xavier Rhodes

Xavier Rhodes was one of the top cornerbacks in the NFL this past season, but in 2017-2019, he struggled. The Minnesota Vikings decided to part ways with Rhodes this past offseason. Rhodes signed a one-year, $3,250,000 million deal with the Indianapolis Colts.

Rhodes recorded 42 tackles, 12 pass defends, and two interceptions this past season. With these solid stats, Rhodes could earn himself a pay increase but not too much where it will be out of the Giants’ price range.

If the Giants could find some money to give to Rhodes and if the secondary could repeat what they did this past season, this could easily be one of the best secondaries in 2021.

Jason McCourty

Will Logan Ryan recruit Jason McCourty to New York? The New York native just finished up his two-year deal with the New England Patriots — could McCourty team up with Joe Judge down in New York to finish his career?

McCourty has been a versatile cornerback who has played as an above-average outside cornerback for almost his entire career. McCourty has 723 career tackles, 106 pass defends, and 18 interceptions, and a Super Bowl Ring with Judge.

If McCourty wants to come to New York and leave his twin brother, the Giants have the capital to bring him in. He will have an opportunity to play alongside a Pro Bowl cornerback in Bradberry if he wants to.

Ross Cockrell

It seems like Ross Cockrell’s name is always in talks to come back to New York. With the Giants now having a better all-around team and an excellent secondary, he could come in and compete for the starting job on the outside.

Cockrell is currently on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers; they are on their way to go play in the NFC Championship game against the Green Bay Packers. With the Buccaneers stud cornerbacks, Cockrell has seen the least amount of playing time since his rookie season. Starting only two games and only recorded two pass breakups.

Cockrell only got a one-year deal with the Buccaneers for less than a million. But I will speak for all Giants fans here, we do not want another Cockrell fake signing again. Cockrell backed out of a deal this past offseason.