Offense is king in the modern NFL, so it's not a surprise that on most teams, it's the offense that gets the lion's share of discussion. That's been the case with the New York Giants for several reasons. Before hiring former Patriots assistant Joe Judge, the Giants had two consecutive offensive-minded head coaches, for one thing. They used their 2018 and 2019 first-round picks on a running back (Saquon Barkley) and quarterback (Daniel Jones), for another. Plus, they traded Odell Beckham; spent some money to sign Golden Tate; revamped their offensive line in free agency (Nate Solder), with trades (Kevin Zeitler), and in the draft (Will Hernandez, Andrew Thomas); and bid adieu to longtime starter Eli Manning.
With all that shuffling on offense, you might be forgiven for failing to see that it's the backslide of the defense, as much as anything else, that had led to the team's recent downswing. Back in 2016, the Giants spent a bunch of money to upgrade the less glamorous side of the ball, and rode one of the league's most-improved units to an 11-5 record and a playoff berth. The defense has gotten worse and worse ever since.
The Giants have, however, invested some resources in remaking it over the past couple of years as well. First-round picks were used on Dexter Lawrence and DeAndre Baker. They traded for Leonard Williams. They signed James Bradberry to a big-money deal. And this year, they took Alabama safety Xavier McKinney near the top of the second round.
McKinney figures to be an important piece for the defense due to his versatility. During his final collegiate season, McKinney lined up all over the place, splitting his time nearly equally between setting up in the box, as a deep safety, and in the slot.
He seems to be gearing up to do something similar in New York.
"I've always said this and I'll always keep saying it, my biggest comfort zone is I'm comfortable anywhere," McKinney said, per the team's official website. "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."
Coming as he does from New England, Judge has experience with versatile safeties like McKinney. Devin McCourty began his career as a cornerback before moving to free safety, and his ability to work in both single-high looks and as a rover has helped form the backbone of the Patriots defense for years. If McKinney can approach anything resembling McCourty's level of contribution on the field, the Giants will be very happy with how this pick worked out.