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Mailbag: What Xavier McKinney's return means


Adam in Texas: What do you think the secondary will look like when Xavier McKinney is 100% healthy?

John Schmeelk: Expect the secondary to look much like it does now, with Xavier McKinney taking the snaps as the third safety rather than Julian Love. Over the last three weeks, Love has played an average of 32 defensive snaps per game, with all but eight coming at free safety. McKinney could draw almost an identical role when he comes back, with perhaps a few more snaps than Love was getting after McKinney gets a few additional games under his belt. McKinney's ability to play center field will complement Pepper's ability to play at the line of scrimmage and Logan Ryan's all-around versatility quite well.

EJ in North Carolina: Patrick Graham has done a remarkable job with the defense and scheme he has installed. He had similar success in Miami last season before he moved on. Other than an edge rusher and a cornerback opposite of Bradberry, what defensive personnel do the Giants need to focus in free agency before turning to the draft?

John Schmeelk: You hit the two major positions, although adding more than one edge rusher and cornerback might not be a bad thing. A team can never have enough good players at both positions. Keep in mind that these are two positions that do not come cheap, and with a potentially shrinking salary cap it may be easier said than done.

If the Giants stick with a heavy three-safety package it might not be necessary to add another insider linebacker next to Blake Martinez, especially if Tae Crowder or one of the other young linebackers develops.

The Giants' biggest task in free agency could be retaining their own players. Dalvin Tomlinson and Leonard Williams, two of their key players on the defensive line, are free agents. Kyler Fackrell and Logan Ryan will be hitting free agency coming off their one-year contracts. The front office needs to decide which of these players they want back and can fit within their cap.

Ian in Arizona: Should we expect any big changes with the O-line after Dave DeGuglielmo takes over?

John Schmeelk: I don't think so, mostly because it is very difficult to install any major changes in the middle of a season. At this point, the best thing DeGuglielmo can do is build upon what the offensive line was doing well before he arrived, and correct any technique issues he thinks might lead to immediate improvement from the players. I would be surprised if we see any wholesale changes.

Thomas in New York: Given how close the Giants have kept many of their games this year, and the fact that they have been playing better each week, is it possible to believe that the Giants could win the NFC East and make a deep run in the playoffs?

John Schmeelk: In a one-loss, knockout style tournament like the NFL playoffs, anything is possible, but the metrics wouldn't indicate a deep run unless there is continued improvement in a lot of different categories. The Giants' pass defense still ranks in the bottom third of the league and their passing game still isn't as explosive as it needs to be. The best thing the Giants can do to win upcoming games is to continue to not beat themselves by turning the ball nor commit untimely penalties. The way the Giants play will lead to a lot of close games. If they win those games like they have the past two weeks, they will be positioned well moving forward.


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