ESPN’s Field Yates reported Wednesday that New York Giants safety Xavier McKinney broke his left foot and will require surgery. Ian Rapoport has estimated his recovery time at ten weeks, which means Big Blue’s 2020 second-round pick will have to wait until November to make his debut.
The secondary was supposed to be a strength. The Giants don’t have great pass rushers, but investments made at corner and safety suggested a defense built from the back end. Modeled after last year’s New England Patriots and Baltimore Ravens, the Giants were meant to have a good coverage unit. The front-seven would therefore get more time to scheme quarterback pressure. Then, DeAndre Baker‘s armed robbery charge and Sam Beal‘s opt out gutted the team’s depth chart at cornerback, putting the hope of a good secondary in jeopardy. This most recent blow to New York’s defensive backfield, though, might be the most heartbreaking.
The news obviously stinks for both McKinney and the Giants. The Alabama alum was considered a steal when New York nabbed him 36th overall, and figured to be an important piece in coordinator Patrick Graham’s versatile, multi-faceted defense. At first glance, this latest loss leaves the Giants’ secondary as bad if not worse than last year, when New York ranked 31st in pass-defense DVOA according to Football Outsiders. But maybe, if you squint just hard enough, there’s a thin silver lining on the dark cloud the rookie’s injury cast over Giants training camp. Here’s a look at both the bright and the dark sides of Mckinney’s forced absence.
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Bright Side: More Snaps for Julian Love
It’s fair to say that McKinney is the Big Blue defensive back with the most promise, but Love is the likely runner-up. The 2019 fourth-round pick was a cornerback in college, but spent his rookie year learning safety. He started the final five games in place of the injured Jabrill Peppers. Love didn’t squander his opportunity, registering 34 tackles (including five for a loss) and holding up well in coverage. Pro Football Focus even named him the Giants’ most underrated player heading into 2020.
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Graham had figured to use a lot of three-safety packages, but Love was the likely odd man in base formations. Now, with McKinney out of the picture, Love will see the field on virtually every defensive snap. The Giants will get a good, long look at just what they have in their intriguing converted corner. There’s a decent chance the sophomore Love will be more productive at free safety than the rookie McKinney would’ve been.
Dark Side: Paper-Thin Depth
The cornerback position was already sparse on talent. Without McKinney, the safety position becomes just as dicey. Barring further injury, this secondary might avoid disaster. James Bradberry and Corey Ballentine at outside corner, Darnay Holmes in the slot, with Peppers and Love at safety can still be a quality coverage unit. One more player goes down, though, and the Giants will be counting on a hope and a prayer.
Montre Hartage is likely the third safety with McKinney out. The second-year undrafted free agent was brought in by New York after being cut by the Miami Dolphins. His familiarity with Graham’s scheme got him the job, but he ideally should not be getting major snaps.
The cornerback reserves include undrafted free agent Jarren Williams, seventh-round pick Chris Williamson, and the newly signed Brandon Williams. None of whom would inspire much confidence should they see the field.