giants 2020 free-agent pickups
(Photo by Kyle Ross/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Inside linebacker Blake Martinez is one of the biggest reasons for the resurgence of this New York Giants defense.

Jason Leach

While New York Giants fans were hoping their team would be better than 2-7 after nine games, one thing they can take pride in is the improvement of the defense under defensive coordinator Patrick Graham.

This season, despite the offense constantly losing the field-position battle, the defense is giving up just 360 yards per game and 24.3 points per game. This is a significant improvement from last season when the defense allowed 377.3 yards per game and surrendered 28.2 points under defensive coordinator James Bettcher.

One of the biggest reasons for the improvement of the defense is due to inside linebacker Blake Martinez. Graham and Martinez were together in 2018 when Martinez was a Green Bay Packer, and Graham was the Packers linebackers coach.

The Giants signed Martinez this offseason to a three-year, $30 million contract and he’s been worth every penny.

He has been a tackling machine as he leads the NFL in tackles with 92, and he’s had four games this season with double-digit tackles. He’s also been effective blitzing with five quarterback hits to go along with his two sacks. Last Sunday in the Giants’ 23-20 victory against Washington, he also came away with his first interception in blue.

Although there won’t be a Pro Bowl game this year due to COVID-19, Martinez is poised to be voted to his first Pro Bowl and All-Pro team.

Some of the attributes that have made Martinez so effective is his anticipation, instincts, and football IQ which is why he’s the quarterback of the defense. He makes sure that he and the rest of the defense are in the right position and know their assignment.

The 2020 defense may not be dominant, but they’ve shown they have the talent and scheme to slow down any opposing offense, and Martinez is a big reason why.

With the exception of the team’s 36-9 loss to the San Francisco 49ers in Week 3 and their 37-34 loss to the Cowboys in Week 5, the defense has played well enough to win every other game.

Six of the Giants losses have been decided by a total of 28 points. Martinez was asked if he ever looks back at those games and thinks if a play here or there may have been different, the outcome would have been different.

“You go back to those games, I think that’s the tough aspect that you look back and see the small moments where we talk about each week that we hurt ourselves, knowing we could have won those games, especially all the close ones,” Martinez told reporters.

“But it’s something that you also look at and take a positive from it, and know that we’re making those improvements week by week and doing the things necessary to be in games. Now it’s time to start closing those games out and doing what we can do as the season continues.”

While the defense is taking a step in the right direction, NFL teams are ultimately judged on wins and losses. Nothing would please Martinez and the rest of the Giants more than to win this Sunday and end their eight-game losing streak to the Eagles.

The Eagles won the Week 7 matchup this season 22-21 as Carson Wentz threw the game-winning touchdown to Boston Scott with 40 seconds remaining in the game.

Martinez was asked how excited he was to get another shot at the Eagles.

“Any week, especially a division opponent, you’re extremely pumped up to go into that game,” Martinez said. “How the game ended last time, you kind of want to go out there and kind of get that taste out of your mouth of losing and going out there and finishing this one.”

If the Giants are going to end their losing streak to the Eagles and come within a half-game of first place in the NFC East, Martinez will be a huge reason why.