Safety Xavier McKinney prides himself on being comfortable in any situation.
Wow, 2020 is putting that to the test.
"Well, it's definitely been different," the rookie second-round pick told the Giants Huddle podcast. "The big word that I keep hearing is unique. I think our situation has been very unique just because this is the first time something like this has happened. It definitely has been a different experience, but at the same time, I never went through the [normal] experiences before.
"So for me, this is just something that I have to go through as far as my process and all the other rookies. But I think it's been good overall. It's a lot of Zoom calls, I'll tell you that. It's a lot of calls over the phone, which you can kind of get tired of, at times. But it's definitely been fun. It's a different experience and I've loved every bit of it."
McKinney and the Giants wrapped up the virtual off-season program two weeks ago, setting the stage for training camp as the first opportunity the team will see each other in person this year. The Alabama product said it will be a challenge, at first, just because the team has not been on the field together yet. But he believes everyone prepared the best they could.
McKinney started to reach out to his new teammates the moment the Giants drafted him in late April and continued to do so remotely this Spring. However, he is champing at the bit for the real thing.
"I'm just ready to go and build that relationship with those guys," McKinney said. "And actually ready to get on the field and be able to play with all these guys that I've seen in the past – like watched on TV. I'm ready to get things going at this point."
A first-team All-SEC selection in 2019, the versatile McKinney led Alabama's defense with 95 tackles, including 5.5 for losses and three sacks. He led the SEC with four forced fumbles, tied for second-most in Alabama history. McKinney also had three interceptions (highlighted by an 81-yard TD return) to go with five pass breakups and five quarterback hurries.
He will try to bring the same high level of production to Patrick Graham's defense. When asked what he likes most about the defensive coordinator's scheme. "Everything," McKinney said.
McKinney comes from a defensive juggernaut led by Nick Saban, whom Giants coach Joe Judge helped win two of his six national titles as an assistant. Saban said on a recent Giants Huddle that McKinney should have been a first-round pick, based on historical data if nothing else. The first safety taken doesn't typically fall to the second round, but the Giants were fortunate it happened this time.
"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."
So what role suits him best?
"I've always said this and I'll always keep saying it, my biggest comfort zone is I'm comfortable anywhere," McKinney said. "Any zone that I feel like I'm uncomfortable at, I try to make it my comfort zone. But how I play and the way I play, I'm comfortable at any level of the defense. I try not to just pinpoint one thing that I do well. I'm just excited to be ready for wherever the opportunity might be."