EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – Giants linebacker Blake Martinez is very serious about both his title and his job description.
"As a middle linebacker of the defense, you want to be that guy that's leading the team in tackles," Martinez said this week. "I think that's your M.O. That's your job, that's your job responsibility that you're the guy that is kind of manning that middle of the field where a lot of plays and a lot of passes go through. Everything kind of flows through the middle of the field, and you want to be that dominant force in the middle that makes plays, and when plays come to you, you make them. I think that's kind of what I've always prided myself on as being that kind of guy that coaches can count on and players can count on as the guy that's going to always be there to make the plays that come to you."
Martinez is a playmaking automaton. He enters the Giants' game Sunday in Dallas as the team's leader in tackles with 43 (26 solo), more than twice the total of runner-up Logan Ryan (21). Martinez is also tied for the team lead with 2.0 sacks.
The 43 tackles tie Martinez with Houston's Zach Cunningham for second in the NFL, just two stops behind Minnesota's Eric Kendricks.
That continues a years-long trend of durability and production for Martinez, who joined the Giants as a free agent on March 26. In his final three seasons in Green Bay, Martinez started every game and topped the Packers with 156, 147 and 155 tackles, respectively.
Giants coach Joe Judge said Martinez has many attributes that enable him to spend as much time around the ball as the opposition's quarterback.
"He definitely has really good instincts," Judge said. "He can find the ball, he knows how to navigate behind those defensive bigs in front of him. He has good anticipation of the scheme. He's a very good communicator for us. He's definitely a smart player. But he has very good instincts at finding the ball, so he definitely has a nose for it."
Martinez believes his success is dependent not so much on what he does during a game but on the work he puts in during the days leading up to it.
"I think for me, it's my preparation each week," Martinez said. "I don't know if I have a different way than other people, but basically I start from scratch from the first time I watch film. I go and watch, depending on what the cutups are, of guys that are known as really good linebackers in the league and see how they went against that team and performed that week."
Martinez began his study of the Cowboys by reviewing two of their recent opponents' top linebackers, Atlanta's Deion Jones and Seattle's Bobby Wagner.
"They are two guys that are always recognized as really good linebackers in the league," Martinez said. "You see certain things. Obviously, certain guys have different aspects of their game, so you look at certain stuff where Deion, obviously, a great cover guy, can kind of range the field and get places extremely quickly. Bobby Wagner, obviously, a guy that controls the front. He does the quarterbacking of the whole defense and is recognized as one of the top linebackers pretty much every year. I've been watching them and seeing how they have done things, how they get off blocks, was it difficult for them, what did they see, how'd they read certain formations and things like that."
Jones had seven tackles, including a half-sack, against Dallas on Sept. 20. A week later Wagner had nine stops in Seattle's victory against the Cowboys.
Martinez typically begins his preparation on Tuesday night, the day prior to the team's first practice of the week. After putting in a long day of meetings and on-field work, he will continue studying at home in the evening.
"Pretty much it will be like two hours a day, depending on the given situation," Martinez said. "There are some times that I'll be watching things and all of a sudden, it'll go longer than that. Obviously, things come up and it might go shorter. But I'd say on average, it would probably be two hours a day on Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday. Then maybe some on Sunday. Probably about 10 hours a week of film. Then obviously stuff in the meeting rooms with the linebackers as a group."
Martinez is a defensive captain who confers frequently with coordinator Patrick Graham, who was his position coach in Green Bay in 2018. During a game, he gets the play calls from Graham and communicates them to his teammates in the huddle. Martinez often knows what Graham will call before he actually hears it.
"I ask Pat Graham for a ready list of basically his call sheet for that given week," Martinez said. "I'll go back to my hotel room Saturday night or Sunday morning and go through each call and just write in, 'Okay, what am I thinking on this play?' 'How am I going to make this check?' 'What should I communicate to certain players on this play?' Just kind of go through the thought process if it is called on how I can help myself and also how I can help the guys around me on that given play call."
Martinez and Graham always speak to each other after a defensive series.
"He'll kind of go through the whole bench, whether it's starting with the D-line all the way down to the DBs, and go to each position group," Martinez said. "After that, I'll go up to him and say, 'Hey, what are we thinking first, second, third down? What adjustments are you expecting that you need me to make?' Just things like that to basically get a head start as we go back on the field."
Martinez joined the Giants in part to work again with Graham and their strengthening bond has validated his decision.
"It's been amazing," Martinez said. "I went into it thinking that it was going to be kind of that perfect fit, and it's kind of been even greater than that if that's even possible, just in the aspect that he understands my personality, I understand his personality. We get along tremendously, and we bounce things off each other just kind of seeing okay, this is his coaching eye but this is also my player eye of like, 'Okay guys are having a tough time with this, guys want to understand this more,' and just things like that which has helped me to understand what he's thinking on given play calls. Also, what I should be thinking and how he should be thinking of what other guys are feeling that week with whatever scheme we have going into the game on Sunday."
On Sunday, Martinez will see another former mentor in Mike McCarthy, his head coach in Green Bay for two-plus seasons who now holds the same job with the Cowboys.
"He's an awesome coach, awesome guy," Martinez said. "He's obviously the guy that gave me my first opportunity in the NFL."
Thanks to his meticulous preparation, Martinez has made the most of it.
View photos of the Giants' active roster as it currently stands.