Xavier McKinney enjoyed a career year in his second NFL season, leading the Giants with five interceptions. The former second-rounder figures to remain a bright spot on the team, but some aspects of the defense under ex-DC Patrick Graham were the subject of remarks the young safety recently made.
In conversation with Steve Serby of the New York Post, McKinney noted a marked difference in practices since the arrival of Graham’s replacement, Don Martindale, particularly in the level of communication between players and coaches. “We didn’t really have much of that these last two years, and that was a big problem,” he said. “That came with obviously a lot of like everything didn’t look organized. Even defensively there were times we played good, but sometimes the communication wasn’t there, and that’s because everybody was kind of on different… it was a lot of different things going on.
“[Under Martindale] we don’t have to worry about making a mistake on a third down or a fourth down or something like that… and I think that’s what we’ve missed obviously the past two years… I think everybody could tell you on the defensive side everybody was so afraid of being the one to make the mistake instead of just actually going out there and playing.”
The Giants ranked 21st and 23rd, respectively, last season in terms of yards and points allowed per game last season – something McKinney will look to help the team improve on moving forward, and which could be made easier with a new voice on the sidelines. Graham is now the Raiders’ DC.
Here are some other notes concerning Big Blue:
- Earlier this week, the Giants placed offensive tackle Matt Gono on the exempt/left squad list due to an undisclosed injury. It turns out that the neck injury which caused that absence is likely to end his career (Twitter link via ESPN’s Jordan Raanan). The 26-year-old missed all of last season after having neck surgery, so the return of symptoms in practice would make it challenging for him to make his way back onto the field. Scheduled to be the Giants’ swing tackle, his absence could lead to a larger role for 2020 third-rounder Matt Peart, or require the team to find a depth option in free agency.
- Staying on the theme of offensive lineman, Korey Cunningham will try to earn a roster spot at his natural position, per Dan Duggan of The Athletic (subscription required). The previous coaching staff experimented with a move to tight end for the six-foot-six, 305-pounder, but the new regime led by Brian Daboll will keep him as an o-linemen. The absence of Gono could help him secure a place at the backend of the roster.
- Earlier this week, Duggan also relayed (on Twitter) that quarterback Daniel Jones and left tackle Andrew Thomas received roster bonuses of $3.2MM and $2.7MM, respectively. 2022 is seen as a make-or-break year for Jones, whose fifth-year option was declined, whereas Thomas could make that same decision easier on the team with a strong performance this campaign.