Using a special context-based model to identify every NFL team’s most underappreciated player, NFL.com analyst Cynthia Frelund’s pick for the New York Giants might just be one of their most important players on defense ahead of the 2022 season.
That would be third-year safety Xavier McKinney, of whom Frelund writes:
McKinney earned PFF’s 12th-best coverage grade (78.4) among 113 qualifying safeties in 2021. Computer vision shows that when the Giants deployed man concepts, he was at his best, decreasing opposing passer ratings by an average of 22.2 points. McKinney, who led the team in interceptions last season (5), improved throughout the campaign, and it stands to reason that he’ll be asked to do even more in Year 3, especially given the departure of James Bradberry.
McKinney has quickly become a rising star on the Giants’ defense. After an injury-shortened (broken foot) rookie campaign in which he was limited to 211 defensive snaps, McKinney rarely left the field for the Giants last season.
In 1,134 snaps, he finished as the Giants team leader in interceptions with five. He also finished second on the team in pass breakups (10) and third in total tackles (93) while also logging a respectable 79.2 NFL coverage rating, fourth-best amongst Giants’ defensive backs with a minimum of 100 coverage snaps.
And the best part of it is that McKinney is just getting started.
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“Take it ten times forward, “he said Thursday about what’s next for him after his impressive second season.” That’s what I’m trying to do. Trying to make sure whatever it is I need to do to help this team win games and help us play great defense, that’s what I’m willing to do, and that’s what I’m going to do. “
McKinney has thrust himself into a lot of film study during the off-season to make sure he fulfills his goal to take his game to the next level.
“I’ve just been diving in on film and just seeing different things that the offense does, whether that splits, how they run things when they’re going to run things, situational stuff, “he said.
“Every day, I train, but I want to make sure that I overemphasize just staying in the playbook, staying, watching game film, watching practice film, watching myself, seeing what I can improve on. I think that was the biggest thing for me as far as really taking this thing to the next level. A lot of times, that’s what separates the good guys from the great guys is the film study part. “
McKinney, an aggressive player by nature, said he’s looking forward to contributing to defensive coordinator Wink Martindale’s scheme. Because Martindale intends to throw all different types of pressure packages at opposing offenses, there is a chance of McKinney landing up alone on an island, which he said he doesn’t mind.
“Especially in this defense, “he said,” because it’s so much aggression. It gives you the freedom to go out and play. I don’t mind that at all because, at the end of the day, it’s me versus you, anyway. So I’m trying to win a one-man battle every time, and I’m sure I’m going to win that battle every time. ”
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