LOS ANGELES, CA - OCTOBER 28: Linebacker Blake Martinez #50 of the Green Bay Packers celebrates after stopping the Los Angeles Rams at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum on October 28, 2018 in Los Angeles, California.
(Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)

The New York Giants are banking that free Blake Martinez can help improve their 25th-ranked defense from a season ago.

Jason Leach

There are many questions surrounding the New York Giants as they prepare for this unprecedented season under rookie head coach Joe Judge.

But one thing is for certain about the Giants and that is their offense is the strongest unit on the team. With playmakers like Saquon Barkley, Daniel Jones, Evan Engram, and Darius Slayton, the offense can certainly hold its own.

However, there are concerns that the defense may not be better than it was last year when they finished 25th overall, and these concerns existed before Sam Beal opted out, and prior to DeAndre Baker being put on the commissioner’s exempt list for armed robbery charges.

But there are reasons to be optimistic that the defense can improve. For one, the Giants have a new defensive coordinator in Patrick Graham, who was the team’s defensive line coach from 2016-2017.  The other reasons are the two key free-agent signings general manager Dave Gettleman made in cornerback James Bradberry and inside linebacker Blake Martinez.

Martinez signed a three year, $30.75 million contract and is expected to be the quarterback of the defense, making sure everyone knows their assignments. Gettleman saw first-hand how effective Martinez can be last season as he had a game-high 10 tackles in the Green Bay Packers’ 31-13 victory over the Giants in Week 13 at MetLife Stadium.

The 26-year-old Martinez was taken in the fourth round of the 2016 draft (131st overall) by the Packers out of the University of Stanford.

In his four seasons with the Packers, he’s appeared in 61 games and recorded 512 tackles, 10 sacks, three interceptions, and two forced fumbles. He is one of the most active defenders in the league as last season he finished second in the league in tackles with 155, as well as finishing second in 2018 with 144 tackles, and was the co-leader in tackles in 2017 with 144.

He is an intelligent and fundamentally sound player that the Giants desperately needed after they released linebacker Alec Ogletree in February.

While this will be Martinez’s first season with Big Blue, he’ll also be reunited with Patrick Graham who was the Packers linebacker coach and run game coordinator in 2018.

Recently Martinez was asked what the dynamic is between him and Graham and does his past experience with Graham make switching teams a bit easier.

“We have a great relationship,” Martinez explained. “We grew it my third year in Green Bay and it makes it a lot easier to walk into his office anytime. Any concerns I have, or certain questions I have, I can go straight to him and we chat just like anybody else. It’s made it a lot easier to get new updates on anything that he is changing throughout the day.”

There’s a ton of pressure on Martinez as the hopes of the defense getting back to respectability rely heavily on him. As well as Martinez played in his first four seasons in the league, the Giants are hoping he can elevate his game even higher to help improve the Giants scoring defense which was 30th in the league (28.2 points per game).

In addition to his play on the field, the Giants are banking that he can help bring a winning culture into the locker room as he helped the Packers to a 13-3 record last season and a berth in the NFC Championship game.

It will take a total team effort by the Giants if they’re going to change their culture and bring the franchise back to respectability, and Martinez will play a pivotal role in changing Big Blue’s ways.

NYY

NYM

NYG

NYJ

NYK

BKN

NYR

NYI

NJD

SJU