Head coach Joe Judge and defensive coordinator Patrick Graham will have to find a way to deal with losing Xavier McKinney and David Mayo.
More than any other league, in the NFL you have to have a “next man up” mentality due to the prevalence of injuries. New York Giants head coach Joe Judge and the rest of his staff have had to convey this mentality to the team.
Big Blue has already had to deal with Nate Solder, Sam Beal, and Da’Mari Scott opting out. On top of that, DeAndre Baker has been put on the commissioner’s exempt list due to his armed robbery charges, and special teams ace Cody Core has been put on IR after tearing his Achilles.
The hits kept coming this week as safety and second-round pick Xavier McKinney fractured a bone in his left foot and had surgery on Wednesday, and linebacker David Mayo suffered a torn meniscus in his left knee.
Mayo appeared in 16 games (13 starts) last season and finished second on the team in tackles with 82. McKinney was seen by many as the best safety in this draft and was seen as a key piece on the defense, specifically for his ability to cover tight ends.
It’s unclear when the Giants will have McKinney and Mayo back.
“Xavier is a guy for us who’s making a tremendous amount of improvement,” Judge told reporters. “Look, we’re still looking forward to getting him back out there on the field. I’m not a doctor, I don’t have that timetable. I’m going to let those guys handle that.
“Very much like Zay, we have to wait and see what the doctors say after they go in. I was told today by Ronnie (Barnes, the team’s senior vice president for medical services) that he had been looking at his knee. There wasn’t anything that we thought was an issue, I guess it flared up on him yesterday. Ronnie came into my office this morning and let me know where he’s at. They are taking a look at him, they should have more news for me tomorrow and we will see where that’s at.
Replacing McKinney and Mayo with less than three weeks until the start of the regular season will not be easy. McKinney was poised to be the starting free safety, and Mayo was competing to be the starting inside linebacker next to Blake Martinez.
There are two players who are in line to fill in the void that Mayo leaves behind—Ryan Connelly and Devante Downs.
As a rookie last season, Connelly appeared in four games and had 20 tackles, two interceptions, and a sack before his season came to an abrupt end due to a torn ACL. So far in camp, Connelly is still working his way back to form. He’s been limited in camp which has left the door open for Downs, who has been impressive thus far in camp.
Downs was drafted by the Vikings in the seventh round (225th overall) in the 2018 NFL Draft and played sparingly until the Vikings released him in September of 2019. The Giants signed him in October and he appeared in seven games and recorded one tackle.
Replacing McKinney is going to be an even more challenging task for Big Blue as he’s likely out until November. The Giants had planned on using three-safety packages with McKinney, strong safety Jabrill Peppers, and Julian Love. But that is now out of the questions as Love will now likely take McKinney’s place as the free safety.
The secondary is already depleted and defensive coordinator Patrick Graham may have to abandon using three-safety packages until McKinney returns, or until someone shows they’re ready to step in.
We’ll get a better idea of how the Giants will cope with the injuries to McKinney and Mayo during their Blue and White scrimmage on Friday night at 7:15 p.m. ET.