Giants’ Xavier McKinney takes on the leadership challenge

There is no doubt that one of the reasons the Giants’ new front office and coaching regime decided to move away from veteran safety veteran and team captain Logan Ryan is the presence of another safety man, Xavier McKinney, on the roster, the field and in is the dressing room.

With Ryan, 31, gone, McKinney, 22, may emerge as an aspiring young leader for a franchise looking to take a different direction.

This thought is brought to an end by McKinney.

“Yes, my goal has always been the same from day 1,” he said this week. “I’ve always wanted and always wanted to be a leader, that hasn’t changed, no matter who’s here, who’s not here. That’s how I see it and how I deal with it.”

So McKinney never viewed Ryan as an obstacle to his progress, either on or off the field. Ryan was the player channel for Joe Judge, who served as head coach for just two seasons. Ryan’s departure had nothing to do with savings on the salary cap, it was all about the new group not appreciating the contributions Ryan could make.

“I think we’re fitting, look, when you take on a new program there are decisions that have to be made and you make those decisions and what you think is right for your team. keep going,” head coach Brian Daboll said recently.

Xavier McKinney, who intercepted against the Raiders last season, will take a stronger leadership role next season.
Xavier McKinney, who intercepted against the Raiders last season, will take a stronger leadership role next season.
USA TODAY sports

Interestingly, when asked about the importance of new leadership and culture change, Daboll mentioned McKinney before any other Giants player.

It sure sounds like McKinney would have preferred to continue his NFL rise with Ryan on the scene.

“That’s my type,” McKinney said. “We had conversations, we talked, and you know, it sucked. We’re brothers but I was happy for him whatever he was up to and he’s with the Bucs now. I’ll leave it at that.”

Ryan imparted wisdom to McKinney, but the 2020 second-round pick from Alabama required no confidence. McKinney had it from the start, although his NFL career as a rookie was grounded when he missed the first 10 games to recover from foot surgery. He played in all 17 games last season and led the Giants in five interceptions. He was third on the team with 93 tackles, behind linebackers Tae Crowder (130) and Ryan (117).

McKinney and the versatile Julian Love return to safety. If the Giants use either of their two first-round picks in the upcoming draft against Notre Dame’s Kyle Hamilton, the position will be immediately stacked. If Hamilton isn’t on schedule for the first round, using a Day 2 pick on a safety like Baylor’s Jalen Pitre makes sense.

Xavier McKinney
Xavier McKinney

There’s a new defensive coordinator, Wink Martindale, for McKinney to get used to, but there’s a level of familiarity with Jerome Henderson returning as defensive backs coach. There’s a good chance cornerback James Bradberry, another high school veteran, won’t be around much longer as the Giants would save $12.1 million in cap space if they could find a trade partner.

McKinney is going nowhere. The Giants are building around him.

“I’m proud of my consistency and that I can improve myself, my game and my leadership every day,” said McKinney. “These are the steps I will take with it. I’ve been an executive for a very long time, so this is nothing new to me. I don’t see it as something bigger than what it was before because it’s just who I am. There is no extra pressure or anything like that. It’s who I am and what I do.

“I think I’ve done a lot of good things very well. I think I found many things. Obviously I still have a lot to improve to keep growing. But as far as the foundation goes, I think I’ve nailed it. I think I’ve learned a lot. I’ve seen a lot of different things in these two years that I’ve been here. Now I think it’s time to step it up and go a little bit further and just keep building on what I’ve already built.” Giants’ Xavier McKinney takes on the leadership challenge


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