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'X' marks the spot on Giants' new defense

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EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – X twice marks the spot on the Giants' defense this season.

In 2019, Oshane Ximines joined the team as a third-round draft choice and the first player ever selected from Old Dominion University. Called "X Man" by just about everyone, he played in all 16 games and had 4.5 sacks as a rookie.

This year, the Giants' second-round selection was safety Xavier McKinney from Alabama.

So, the question now is, which defender now gets the nickname?

"We both have it," Ximines said today. "We're both the X-man. X is a good guy, I like him.

"Yes, I do call him X."

Both young players could be essential contributors in defensive coordinator Pat Graham's scheme – linebacker X hopes to deliver a most valuable commodity, a persistent pass rush, while safety X is competing for a starting job and playing time in the back of the defense.

As a rookie, Ximines finished with 24 tackles (11 solo). He twice sacked Carson Wentz in a Monday night game in Philadelphia and his 4.5 sacks tied him with second-year linebacker Lorenzo Carter for second on the team, behind Markus Golden, who had 10 sacks.

"Rookie year was great, I learned a lot of things," Ximines said. "In year two I'm just looking to do whatever I have to do to help the team win. Coming in learning the playbook and doing whatever I have to do every single day. Getting better and being an asset to the team.

"After playing a full season I kind of already know what to expect when it comes to camp and different schemes on the field and things like that. It's good going into year two, you feel a lot more comfortable."

Must-see photos of the Giants in action with training camp now in full swing in East Rutherford, N.J.

In addition to Golden, Carter and Ximines, the outside linebacker unit includes free agent import Kyler Fackrell, who had 10.5 sacks with Green Bay in 2018. How does Ximines, the least-experienced of that foursome, separate himself?

"In our room it's great because we all push each other and we all motivate each other every single day," Ximines said. "We learn from each other. We all have different skill sets and we understand that. We try to take from each other as much as possible. As for separating myself, I'm not really worried about that right now. I'm just coming in every single day and doing whatever I have to do to help the team. It's been going good so far."

Outside linebackers coach/senior assistant Brett Bielema was asked how he can help Ximines and Carter improve.

"I think the part that's been fun to work with those two, and really the room in general, is they've bought into everything Joe (Judge) has talked about since day one. As a positional coach, we go in there, we talk about specific things that pertain to outside linebacker play. It's easy to see that both of them have a lot of talent, a lot of physical, raw skills that they've been able to hone and kind of be specific. But now to fit into our scheme, they're going to work every day. They're doing their daily grind, they keep stacking days together, and then hopefully the results will start to show up on Sundays the way they envision, the way we envision them, and hopefully everybody alike on the outside world as well.

McKinney, a first-team All-SEC selection at Alabama last season, was a three-year contributor and two-year starter for Nick Saban's Crimson Tide. He has always set the bar high for himself.

"(I am) never satisfied," McKinney said. "That's my biggest thing right now. For me, I know what I can do. I know what I'm capable of. A lot of the times I go back and watch my film and when we watch film as a team, I always study and see what I did wrong and what I can do better so I can improve on a play. Whether it's a down or whoever I'm guarding, I try to make sure I key on that every time I watch film.

"I'm just trying to get better each and every day. I'm not exactly where I want to be right now. Whatever role they want me to play, whatever they want me to do so that the team is successful, then I'll make sure I do that. My main focus as a rookie is trying to get better. Try to earn the respect of my teammates, try to earn the trust of my teammates. That's what I'm going to do."

Just like his fellow X Man.

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