Is second-year safety Xavier McKinney becoming a ‘superstar’ for the Giants? – NFL Nation

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EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ – New York Giants runner Saquon Barkley was asked about his team’s strong defensive performance after Sunday’s 13-7 win over the Philadelphia Eagles. He mentioned the names of young cornerbacks Darnay Holmes and Aaron Robinson, and their contribution to the short-handed secondary.

Then he threw a comment about safety Xavier McKinney, who forced a double-thank you for attaching an unexpected superlative to his name.

“[McKinney is] To Super star which will only get better throughout this league, “Barkley said in the middle of the sentence.

A superstar, right? Barkley said so, and so did McKinney’s security partner, veteran Logan Ryan, a few weeks ago.

It matters when two of the team leaders are willing to put so much praise and pressure on a second-year player. It’s also a big leap for a player who a month into this season had not yet really differentiated himself in the NFL.

McKinney, a second-round pick from Alabama in 2020, spent most of last season on an injured reserve with a foot injury. He showed glimpses of dominance in four starts down the stretch, giving promise for this year. But the first month or so of this season, he was the guy who was close to playing, but never quite finished the job.

So in a Week 5 loss to the Los Angeles Rams, McKinney had two interceptions. He had two more in a Week 9 win over the Las Vegas Raiders. He added a fifth interception Sunday, showing range on a selection of quarterback Jalen Hurts and also a key pass breach on the Eagles’ last drive. McKinney also reached a career high with eight tackles against the Eagles and is now Pro Football Focus’ 12th ranked safety with an overall rating of 76.7. His highest rating of 78.3 is for his coverage.

“I just think it gives us more confidence [defensive backs] knowing we have playmakers behind us who will go back there and play whenever a quarterback tries to throw it deep over us, “said cornerback James Bradberry. … We want to play aggressively so quarterbacks can throw it. back there to try and test it. “

Maybe what Barkley, Ryan and Bradberry have seen for training every day is finally on its way to the pitch.

The results in recent weeks are encouraging, with McKinney playing a bigger role, while Ryan has put the last two games on the sidelines due to a positive COVID-19 test. Ryan is expected to return Sunday away from home against the Miami Dolphins (13.00 ET, Fox).

“It simply came to our notice then [McKinney] is this guy can do a lot of things close to the line of scrimmage. He can cover man, he can play downstairs like a robber, he does all those things very well, “said coach Joe Judge. The one thing he really does exceptionally well is play the deep part of the court. … He understands what he’s seen earlier in that game, as well as on tape, to just go ahead and calculate the formation along with the personnel, and how they use it. “He’s made a lot of plays by sitting back there, letting the play develop, and then of course he has the physical ability to make those breaks and finish with those catches.”

It was clear again in the third quarter against the Eagles as McKinney was the lone deep safety in the middle of the field. He was standing on the left hash when he saw where Hurts was looking, turned his hips and eased effortlessly.

McKinney tracked the ball 24 yards into the air and finished close to the Giants’ sideline. He jumped, set the ball high and made the interception seem somewhat routine.

Several weeks ago, this seemed like the kind of game McKinney might have barely reached and, at best, overturned the pass. He himself has noticed a difference.

“Just being aggressive on the ball … trying to be a game-changer for my team so we’re able to win games,” McKinney said. “So it’s been my biggest thing, just trusting what I see and going and getting it … Obviously I still have a lot of things I need to practice and work on that I do every day.”

The hope is that he will become the Giants ‘version of Devin McCourty – a productive safety who has been a mainstay of the New England Patriots’ secondary for 12 seasons.

It is no coincidence that the Giants under referee and defensive coordinator Patrick Graham have built their defense from back to front. They met McKinney and signed Ryan, Bradberry and cornerback Adoree ‘Jackson since their arrival. Broadly.

This is the philosophical approach of coaches from the tree of New England coach Bill Belichick.

“When you look at the structure of the defense, it’s no secret Miami (under Belichick disciple Brian Flores), New England too, and us, we play a lot of sub [-package] defense. So a lot of nickel, dime and that sort of thing, and it’s a heavy matchup defense in many ways, “the referee said. To be able to be really fluent through game plans, you need to have a number of different skill sets and body types to go out there and have the depth to be able to play it, and it really starts in the secondary.

“You can also use the secondary to supplement different parts of your team. If you’re easy on linebackers, then how do you use some of your greater safety? If your passing rush is an issue, then how do you use your secondary to either brake? the release of the quarterback or also be part of the pressure?

“It just has to do with the philosophy and the construction of the team as a whole. Good security, good corners – in this league you can not have too many of them.”

McKinney has proven to be one, and a key piece to the Giants’ defense.

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