Xavier McKinney should be a priority re-sign for new Giants DC Shane Bowen

Xavier McKinney would thrive in Shane Bowen's new defensive scheme
Philadelphia Eagles v New York Giants
Philadelphia Eagles v New York Giants / Cooper Neill/GettyImages

Xavier McKinney is one of the best defensive players for the NY Giants. After being drafted with the No. 36 pick in the 2020 draft, McKinney's had some ups and downs. His first season was riddled with injuries - not seeing his first NFL snap until November of that season - but he was able to grab his first career interception in the last game of the campaign. In 2021, he exploded onto the scene with five interceptions, 10 pass deflections and 90 tackles.

That was under former defensive coordinator Patrick Graham, who didn't return in 2022 under then new head coach Brian Daboll. Daboll elected to hire Wink Martindale, where McKinney's role changed drastically. Martindale's scheme is built on pressure and confusing quarterbacks through that, with blitzing being a common practice. McKinney went from blitzing just 10 times in his first two seasons to way more the past two campaigns, with a lot of time spent down in the box.

With Martindale out the door and Shane Bowen coming in, McKinney could see another stellar year like he had in 2021 if the Giants re-sign him. McKinney in Bowen's system is a big reason why he needs to remain a Giant for the long term.

Xavier McKinney has to remain a Giant under Shane Bowen

Let's take a look at the numbers, specifically the 2021 season. In 1,134 total snaps that year, McKinney played 807 (roughly 71 percent) at free safety. The next highest position he played at in 2021 was in the box at 148 snaps, which is only about 13 percent of snaps.

Under Graham, McKinney played that 'center field' type of role. He was rarely asked to blitz like he was under Martindale, allowing him to play the pass more and not have to worry so much about providing pressure.

Now let's take a look at McKinney's 2023 season under Martindale. He played 100 percent of defensive snaps, which equates to 1,231. Of those snaps, 464 (38 percent) were spent at free safety and 388 (32 percent) were spent down in the box. That's more than double the amount he spent in the box in 2021. He also spent 82 snaps on the defensive line, almost four times the amount he had in 2021.

In the tweet above, Dan Schneier mentions Kevin Byard as a safety who thrived in Bowen's system. In Byard's 2021 Pro Bowl season under Bowen, he had 88 tackles, 13 pass deflections, five interceptions and one sack. The next season? He posted 108 tackles, six pass deflections and four interceptions. The Titans rarely had good defensive back play when Bowen was there, but Byard was the outlier.

Allowing McKinney to settle back into that role should be a talking point when contract discussions begin soon. Another reason why the Giants need to bring McKinney back is that he's only 24 years old and will be 25 by Week 1. The Giants secondary is young and still very much inexperienced. The cornerback position is more of an issue, aside from Deonte Banks. The only other rostered cornerbacks are Cor'Dale Flott, Tre Hawkins and Aaron Robinson as of right now. Having McKinney in the defensive backs room is huge considering his influence among the other players.

Also, with how Jason Pinnock stepped up in 2023 and is only going to get better with another full season under his belt, having a tandem of him and McKinney would be great to have in terms of continuity. Whether they're employing cover 2 and allowing McKinney to take over half of the field or cover 1 and have McKinney scan the entire field, just having him back there in general most of the time is going to give Bowen a nice piece to work with.