Xavier McKinney Turned to Eric Weddle for Book on New Giants Defense
When New York Giants head coach Brian Daboll says he wants to see some heady competition across the board, he’s not kidding.
In addition to players battling for roster spots and roles on the team, Daboll introduced another type of competition involving the matching of wits, if you will, between a player on offense (quarterback Daniel Jones) and one on defense (safety Xavier McKinney) tasked with calling the plays for their respective units.
“I think there’s some friendly competition fire there, and the guys get a kick out of it. There was a lot of energy there at the end of practice,” Daboll said. “I asked X (McKinney) this morning if he liked his play call, and Daniel too, and usually you like it when it works, and you don’t when it doesn’t. But X was pretty firm on his call.”
Besides generating competition, Daboll pointed out that a team needs to be ready if the radio communications cut out during a game. If that happens, he wants the players to be able to run things on their own.
That’s just fine with McKinney, who said the coaches have had the players do this since OTAs.
“It’s fun; it’s a competitive moment,” he said. “We’re both trying to win, so we are both trying to call the best play for us to succeed.”
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While having the quarterback call plays for the offense isn’t such a far-fetched idea, asking the starting safety to call plays on defense instead of the middle linebacker is.
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For the last several years, the Giants have had their middle linebacker take on that role, including Blake Martinez before his Week 3 season-ending knee injury.
But times are changing, and with new defensive coordinator Wink Martindale in place, the decision to have McKinney and not Martinez call the plays could offer a big clue into how each player is expected to be deployed.
Specifically, McKinney, part of the team’s long-term plans, figures to be on the field for every defensive snap. In contrast, Martinez, who had his workload trimmed back Friday after having it increased a bit on Thursday, is only signed through the end of this season.
Martindale also tends to do more substituting of personnel in the front seen than in the back four, so it is anticipated that the middle linebacker might not see as many snaps in this defense as in the past.
McKinney is still learning the defense but said he feels much more at home in the system. To help with that process, he, at the suggestion of Martindale, connected with former NFL safety Eric Weddle, who called the signals for Martindale’s Ravens defense during the 2016-2018 seasons.
“He helped me a lot actually with just kind of how to disguise certain things and be on the same page with Wink,” McKinney said of his phone calls with Weddle.
“He really helped me out in terms of looking at film, studying film, how he did it when he had Wink, so he was really helpful.”
McKinney doesn’t know if he’s getting the radio in his helmet for the season, but if the coaches ask him to take on that role full time, he said he’s fine with it.
“I’ve done it before – I did it at ‘Bama. It’s not surprising, or it’s not too hard,” he said. “It’s different when you’ve got grown men in the huddle, and you’re trying to get the call to everybody. Obviously, being on the backend of it, you might have to run 30 yards and back to get the play to everybody. It’s not too unusual for me.”