David Mayo
ESNY Graphic, Getty Images

Despite another disappointing, playoff-missing campaign, New York Giants linebacker David Mayo quietly put together a productive season.

Regardless of the fact that the team only won four games, there was plenty to discuss involving the New York Giants this past year. 

What’s Daniel Jones’s future going to look like? Is Saquon Barkley’s health something to be concerned about moving forward? When will this organization ultimately figure out how to return to the postseason?

While these were important stories, one that flew under the radar was the solid season put together by 26-year-old linebacker David Mayo.

When the Giants signed Mayo just a week before the start of the season, not much was said. He’d been drafted in the fifth round of the 2015 draft by general manager Dave Gettleman while in Carolina and was mostly a special teams player for the Panthers.

After four years in Carolina, he signed a two-year contract with the San Francisco 49ers in the 2019 offseason. Unfortunately, San Fran cut him on Aug. 31. 

In his first four campaigns, Mayo never recorded more than 16 tackles in a season. Thus, it came as no surprise that not many Giants fans were jumping up and down when the team added the Texas State alum.

At the beginning of the campaign, Mayo started on special teams. He recorded just one tackle during the first three weeks of the season. It appeared it would be just another year in that role for Mayo until the injuries piled up at the middle linebacker position.

Rookie standout Ryan Connelly tore his ACL in Week 4 against the Washington Redskins and Alec Ogletree had already been out with a hamstring injury. This left the Giants in desperate need.

In stepped Mayo, having finished the Week 4 win over the Redskins with eight total tackles and one tackle for loss. 

After his quality performance against Washington, Mayo became one of the team’s every-game starting middle linebackers. He had to perform to keep his job though. The Giants signed Deone Bucannon on Oct. 22 to potentially jump him in the rotation.

“Perform” is exactly what the 26-year-old did. In just his second start for the Giants, Mayo racked up nine total tackles against the Minnesota Vikings. Overall, he played 97% of New York’s defensive snaps in that loss. 

Four days later, Mayo had a career day on Thursday Night Football against the New England Patriots, recording 12 total tackles and .5 sacks. 

Throughout the next four weeks, Mayo’s defensive snap count declined as Ogletree returned to the rotation. Nonetheless, he still picked up his first full sack in a Week 7 loss to the Arizona Cardinals on Oct. 20.

In Week 11 against the Bears, Mayo again received his chance with Ogletree succumbing to another injury. He finished that game with seven total tackles and one pass defended. Across the next three weeks, Mayo recorded 16 total tackles with two coming for losses.

Then, in the final two games, Mayo received the opportunity to put his full talent on display. The veteran ended up playing 100% of the Giants’ defensive snaps in either contest.

In the Week 16 overtime victory over the Redskins, the Texas State alum racked up 10 total tackles with one coming for a loss. Against the Eagles in the season finale, Mayo recorded six total tackles and picked up .5 sacks.

Mayo finished 2019 with 80 combined tackles, five tackles for loss, two sacks, and two passes defended.

While he struggled in pass coverage, Mayo did rank among the NFL’s better run stoppers. Pro Football Focus gave him a 90.7 run defense grade this past season, which ranked second in the league in that category.

Needless to say, the numbers from Mayo are quite impressive.

While the Giants will likely look to upgrade at middle linebacker and pair Connelly with a more athletic partner on the inside, new head coach Joe Judge should be tempted to bring Mayo back in 2020.

Not only did Mayo play well in a role he never performed in at the professional level, but he also brought a type of energy and fire that’s essential to the game of football. This ultimately earned him respect in the Giants locker room.

“He’s come and worked his tail off,” 2019 Giants defensive coordinator James Bettcher told Zach Braziller the New York Post when discussing Mayo last October. “David’s another guy that loves the game. This guy really loves the game, he’s tough, he’s physical.”

If coach Judge proved anything during his introductory press conference, it’s that he preaches physicality. He wants players who are going to “punch” opponents in the mouth for 60 minutes.

Mayo proved he will do that and earns a chance to be back in New York next season.