NY Giants: 7 reasons to be excited about the future

Head coach Joe Judge and Daniel Jones #8 of the New York Giants (Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images)
Head coach Joe Judge and Daniel Jones #8 of the New York Giants (Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images) /
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NY Giants
New York Giants safety Xavier McKinney (Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports) /

McKinney at Full Health

By all indications, safety Xavier McKinney appears to be a great find from 2020’s draft class.

A pre-season injury kept McKinney from playing before Week 12, and he didn’t play more than 50% of defensive snaps until Week 15. But anytime he entered a game he flashed his ability of what’s to come.

Through six games played, McKinney had 25 tackles, one of which was for a loss, a pass deflection, and a game-sealing interception. In a total, those numbers don’t really jump out.

But when you break them down, you could see McKinney was only beginning to warm up.

His first two games, he only played a total of 11 defensive snaps, while playing 14 snaps on special teams. Those games, in which he only recorded one tackle, were meant to get his legs under him.

His first two games as a starting safety, he recorded four tackles in each. And he went from playing 11 snaps across two games to 38 (48%) of the defensive snaps in Week 14 and 41 (64%) of the defensive snaps in Week 15.

In McKinney’s next two games, he recorded eight tackles in each. He played 46 (68%) of the snaps in Week 16, and 73 (89%) of the snaps in Week 17.

Playing more time in each game would be a good sign for a banged-up rookie. But McKinney takes it a step farther. He doesn’t just play more, he produces more.

Each week, he either did as much or more than the week prior. And consider his Week 17 numbers. He played most of the game, matched his season-high eight tackles, and also recorded an interception, and was credited with a pass deflection.

It’s worth repeating, the more McKinney plays, the more he does.

Having him be a natural safety with Jabrill Peppers will help strengthen all aspects of the Giants’ defensive secondary.

Peppers had a great year while he established himself a leader of the Giants’ defense. His game continues to improve. A career-high 69 targets were thrown his way. But he allowed career lows in yards per target and completion. He only allowed two touchdowns, and opposing quarterbacks were only rated an 89.8 while they threw his way.

While it’s a bit unfair to compare those numbers to McKinney’s, since he only played a fraction of the games that Peppers played, it’s a good sign that they’re on par.

Peppers allowed 12 of 13 targets aimed in his direction. But he held those passes to 96 total yards, with a yards per completion of eight and yards per target of only 7.4. He allowed no touchdowns, and held quarterbacks to a rating of 65.4.

This season, the secondary was strengthened with addition by subtraction. 2019 first-round pick DeAndre Baker was released, and his play was not missed.

While he plays a different position, his numbers show the Giants are better without him. In 2019, he allowed 850 yards on 54 completions in his direction. He gave up 15.7 yards per completion, six touchdowns, and quarterbacks had a rating of 116.2.

When McKinney is at full health, he and Peppers will make a formidable combo at the safety position. This also allows standout 2020 stars Logan Ryan, who was awarded a contract extension, and James Bradberry, who was selected to his first Pro Bowl, to play natural corner backs.

McKinney’s presence alone helps fill out a better defensive lineup. And his play is something fans should get real exited about.