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Giants Now (5/11): Xavier McKinney among PFF's top 10 Defensive Rookie of the Year candidates

may-11

PFF: Xavier McKinney among top 10 Defensive Rookie of the Year candidates

The Giants believe they got a steal with their second-round selection of Xavier McKinney, the first safety drafted in the 2020 class with the 36th overall pick. Pro Football Focus agrees.

The analytics service recently ranked the top 10 candidates for Defensive Rookie of the Year and slotted the All-SEC defender from Alabama at No. 7.

"We all know "Mr. Versatile" to be Isaiah Simmons, but McKinney should be associated with that title as well," Anthony Treash wrote. "There have been only five safeties to play over 450 snaps in the box, slot and at free safety over the past two years, and only one of those five produced 70.0-plus grades at all three of those alignments — Xavier McKinney. He was effective against the run, as a pass-rusher and in coverage, producing grades above 79.0 in all of those facets in each of the last two seasons.

"McKinney was a playmaker at Alabama in his versatile role, combining for 22 interceptions, pass breakups and forced fumbles. That type of playmaking for the New York Giants in 2020 would garner a lot of DROY attention."

Redskins defensive end Chase Young (No. 2 pick in the draft) led the list, followed by Arizona's Simmons (No. 8), Ravens linebacker Patrick Queen (No. 28), Lions cornerback Jeff Okudah (No. 3), and 49ers defensive tackle Javon Kinlaw (No. 14).

The Giants boast one AP NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year in franchise history: Hall of Fame linebacker Lawrence Taylor in 1981. They have two on the offensive side of the ball: wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. (2014) and running back Saquon Barkley (2018).

Nick Saban scouts McKinney (and Joe Judge)

Six-time national champion head coach Nick Saban joined the "Giants Huddle" podcast to discuss two former members of his Alabama program who now are part of the New York Giants.

A first-team All-SEC selection in 2019, McKinney led Alabama's defense with 95 tackles, including 5.5 for loss and three sacks. He led the SEC with four forced fumbles, tied for second-most in Alabama history. He added three interceptions to go with five pass breakups and five quarterback hurries. He returned one of his interceptions 81 yards for a touchdown.

"I think Xavier has a lot of diversity as a player," Saban said. "He can play man-to-man, he's got pretty good ball judgment, he's a good tackler, he's got a lot of toughness, he's a very instinctive and effective blitzer. He's got some burst and acceleration to come off the edge or blitz up the middle and he's got enough power to take on a blocker if he needs to. So he can do just about all the critical factors in terms of what we look for in a safety here. As he got experience, he was smart enough to be able to play multiple positions."

Saban added, "I think the guy's got some dog in him. He's a competitive guy. He's a playmaker. We have a production point system here that we use, and he was always high on that board because he forces fumbles, shows up in the right place, does a good job of executing. He's instinctive, he's a quick reactor, he's got a burst. He can be a knock-back tackler. So he's always been a real playmaker for us and it comes in a lot of different ways, but that's probably his greatest strength – his production."

In addition, Giants coach Joe Judge won two national championships under Saban before winning three Super Bowls with Bill Belichick in New England.

"When Joe was here, he was a young guy, very bright, enthusiastic, great teacher, really good relationships with the players, had lots of leadership qualities about him because of the example that he set and the energy and the enthusiasm he had on a daily basis," Saban said. "And he was really smart. He had a good understanding of football. So no surprise to me that Joe has gotten to this point in his career, and we certainly wish him well. He did a fantastic job here for us."

View iconic photos from the all-time series between the Giants and their 2020 opponents.

Giants to host two Monday night games in the same season for first time in history

In case you missed it, the NFL released its 2020 schedule late last week. Two Monday night home games – the season-opener against Pittsburgh and another vs. Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers – and a visit by the defending NFC champion San Francisco 49ers highlight the Giants' 2020 slate.

It is the first time the Giants will host two Monday night games in the same season in the 51-year history of Monday Night Football. They will play their Thursday night game in Philadelphia, twice travel to the west coast (to face the Los Angeles Rams and Seattle Seahawks) and end the season at home against the Dallas Cowboys.

"I'll tell you what, when you get the schedule, it definitely does give you a little surge of energy," Judge said. "It stimulates a lot of conversation between all areas of the organization - support staff, coaching staff -- and you start preparing immediately for it. The number one positive is we're getting ready to play football, so that's the biggest thing. Once you get the schedule, it starts moving a little bit faster in your mind in terms of preparing for what's in front of you."

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