EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – Micah McFadden barely had time to catch his breath in 2022.
The inside linebacker was selected by the Giants in the fifth round of the NFL Draft. He had to learn Wink Martindale's defense. The Florida native and former standout at Indiana University needed to find a place to live in a strange new area. Assimilate with new teammates and coaches and figure out what it takes to be a successful NFL player.
It was a year unlike any he'd ever had.
"I described it as drinking out of a firehose," McFadden said this week. "There's so many things that go along with being in the NFL and obviously being a rookie and being on the field and learning the defense."
McFadden held his own. He played in all 17 regular-season games, starting seven. McFadden finished fifth on the team with 58 tackles (35 solo) and contributed 2.0 sacks and six tackles for loss. But he was inactive for both Giants' playoff games.
This year, McFadden has raised his game. He started each of the first three games and had a team-high 10 tackles in two of them, including nine solo stops last week at San Francisco, where he tallied four tackles for loss, an NFL season high.
Entering the Giants' home game Monday night against Seattle, McFadden has a team-high 24 tackles, and his 16 solo stops tie him with safety Jason Pinnock for the team lead. He has played 73.8% of the defensive snaps and 62.5% on special teams, compared to 38.5% and 24.8% last season.
The water isn't gushing out of the firehouse as forcefully this year.
"Being in year two, you're a little bit more settled, you know what to expect, you know the routine and you know how it's supposed to look, you know week-to-week and day-to-day," McFadden said. "There's definitely that level of comfort with the routine and just being able to focus more on ball."
When training camp began, McFadden was competing with fellow second-year pro Darrian Beavers for the inside linebacker position next to Bobby Okereke, a free agent acquisition. Beavers missed his entire rookie season with a knee injury and is now on the practice squad. McFadden started the preseason opener in Detroit and has continued to solidify his hold on the position.
"He's playing faster," defensive coordinator Wink Martindale said. "He's stronger and playing with a lot more confidence. He had some success in training camp, and he's just kept going. He and Beavers were battling, he won the job, hands down, and he's not letting anybody take it."
View photos of the Giants on the practice field ahead of the Week 4 matchup against the Seattle Seahawks.
McFadden carried additional motivation throughout the offseason, not just from how he played during the regular season, but because he was unable to contribute during the postseason.
"Everybody obviously wants to play when it matters and there's no time like the playoffs," he said. "Obviously, I wanted to play in those two games and after being with the team the entire season and not really being able to contribute at that time, it definitely hurt a little bit. Coming off the offseason, I just wanted to prove that I belong on the field, and I can fit in with the defense, and I just wanted to earn the trust of everybody in the room. I think that's important.
"But I'd say on top of that, throughout the entire year, I didn't feel like I was playing to my potential and what the defense needed from me. I think the entire year kind of motivated me to come back and be better for the team and my teammates and coaches."
McFadden's journey to a more prominent role appeared to take a detour on Aug. 24 when the Giants traded for Isaiah Simmons, who plays inside linebacker and was the eighth overall selection of the 2020 draft – 138 picks before McFadden was chosen two years later. What was McFadden's reaction?
"Obviously, everybody wants to be on the field, and everybody wants to play," he said. "But at the same time, I think it's a lot bigger than that. It's about the team and getting the best guys in the building so that we can win on Sunday. There is going to be competition on any team you play for.
"After meeting him and having him in the room with us, becoming close with him, and playing with him on the field, I think Isaiah is a great fit for this team. I've been really excited to get to know him and see him perform and do his thing on Sundays."
McFadden has made the most of his playing time through three games.
"You know when you're having a productive game, for sure," he said. "I feel like I'm playing well."
And the reasons are…
"I'd say it's a combination, kind of understanding the scheme after having a year under my belt," McFadden said. "On top of it, I'd say it's just comfortability and kind of knowing where to be and my responsibility and not having to think about it as much as I would as a rookie.
"I think you just start thinking more about what you're seeing instead of trying to think about your responsibility within the defense. Once you have that, it's kind of second nature, your responsibility and how you fit into the scheme. Now you just diagnose a play and go do your job and make a play. I think it just helps you play fast."
McFadden also benefits from playing next to Okereke, who was elected a captain in his first season with the team and joins safety Xavier McKinney as the only defensive players to participate in all 206 snaps this season.
"He's somebody with a lot of experience in the league and he's obviously been a great linebacker for a number of years," McFadden said. "I think it's crucial to have somebody like that in the defense and play next to him. I find myself being louder and communicating more and I think that helps the entire defense. A noisy defense is a good defense. So, I think it's been a big help for me for sure."
Although both his statistics and his impact are impressive, McFadden believes he is just getting started.
"There's still a lot left on the table for me to do," he said. "There's some plays that I leave out there in each game and that's kind of how it's going to be. I just want to improve on the mistakes and play some complete games as we move forward here."
View rare photos of the all-time history between the New York Giants and Seattle Seahawks.