The Giants last year drafted the versatile Xavier McKinney, who’s set up to greatly improve this coming season.
Xavier McKinney likely wishes he had most of his rookie campaign back.
The 2020 second-round pick of the Giants missed the majority of the season due to a foot fracture suffered last August. He didn’t return until the Week 12 matchup with Cincinnati and only took part in the final six games of the regular season.
Entering his sophomore NFL campaign, the highly talented individual isn’t slated to start at either of the two main safety spots — barring unforeseen circumstances, those roles will be held for Jabrill Peppers and Logan Ryan.
The playing time will come though, especially in the matchup-based defensive system that coordinator Patrick Graham runs. The important thing for McKinney right now is his development; ahead of this coming season, a focal point should be having the game continue to slow down for him.
“I think the more I play and the more I get out here on the field with my guys, obviously it’s going to slow down,” Xavier told the media following Thursday’s training camp practice. “Having Pep [Jabrill Peppers], J. Love [Julian Love], Loge [Logan Ryan], all those guys out there with me to help me improve and help the game slow down for me, it helps tremendously. I appreciate those guys for that. Just being able to go out there, it helps a lot more every time I come out.”
Camp is a learning period for McKinney, as it is with many second-year players, rookies, and young players in general.
Luckily, this defensive backfield is saturated with bodies who possess superior NFL experience, including Peppers, Ryan, and cornerbacks James Bradberry and Adoree’ Jackson.
Points of advice are thus available for McKinney, should he need them.
“Day in and day out I ask [Jabrill Peppers and Logan Ryan] questions, no matter what it’s on,” he said earlier in the press conference. “Even if it’s just to clarify anything…I go to those guys and really everybody in the DB room. I like to communicate and be vocal, so whenever I see there’s something that maybe I’m not sure about, I go to those guys and they’re always able to help me.”
While it doesn’t seem like McKinney possesses a concrete role within this defense right now, playing time will arrive (as we previously mentioned). Patrick Graham rotates bodies in based on matchups and McKinney is sure to locate significant reps. Last year, Xavier started the team’s final four regular-season games and was on the field for over half of the defensive snaps in the Week 15, 16, and 17 matchups.
His on-field versatility is what helped him earn noteworthy snaps toward the end of the year and what will further assist in him earning the necessary reps in 2021.
It’s also one of the qualities he’s highly confident in.
“I can do it all. From the very first day that I talked about it, I’ve always said I could do it all. I still believe that,” Xavier said. “There’s nowhere that you can’t play me. That’s how I see it and that’s how I go into it.”
This Giants secondary, at least on paper, is slated to be one of the franchise’s best units in years. Bradberry earned his inaugural Pro Bowl bid last season, Peppers and Ryan make for a dynamic safety tandem, and the Giants are high on Adoree’ Jackson considering they inked him to a three-year deal this offseason. Slot corner Darnay Holmes additionally put together a promising rookie campaign in 2020.
Regardless of where Graham and the coaching staff field him, McKinney will be a noteworthy part of the group moving forward.