Don “Wink” Martindale shows his creativity in Year 1 as defensive coordinator for the New York Giants.
During a 19-16 win over the Carolina Panthers on Sunday, Martindale urged star safety Xavier McKinney to play more of a linebacker role. The bold decision helped McKinney and the rest of the Giants defense corner Panthers running back Christian McCaffrey in the passing game (four catches for 26 yards).
McKinney wasn’t the only busy New York defender on Sunday. Martindale fielded six or seven defenders on 45 of 54 snaps. according to ESPN’s Jordan Raanan. The Giants’ top three tacklers in Week 2 were all safety: Julian Love (8 tackles), Dane Belton (5 tackles), and McKinney (5 tackles).
After the game, Giants head coach Brian Daboll credited Martindale with a tremendous defensive game plan.
“I think we have really good coaches, Wink is one of them,” Daboll said in his post-game press conference via the Giants’ official YouTube channel. “I have great faith in Wink. I think the players have a lot of confidence. … Wink has been doing this for a long time. Wink is not afraid of failure. We really want that for the whole organization.”
Martindale’s fearlessness showed late in the game as the Panthers faced a crucial 3rd and 6th. On that play, Martindale rushed three safeties – McKinney, Love and Tony Jefferson – and it resulted in a sack from Panthers quarterback Baker Mayfield.
Watch Love chronicle the sack that helped put the game on hold:
The Panthers poked after that game, and the Giants were able to play out the rest of the clock on offense to seal the win.
When Wink Martindale made the unusual decision to post a security, Xavier McKinney said, the green helmet point (indicates defensive play caller) A lot of people were scratching their heads this summer. The decision was even stranger after the Giants surprisingly cut centerback Blake Martinez just before the season.
Two weeks later, those decisions are starting to make sense. McKinney has become a safety-linebacker hybrid player, and he’s thriving in this newfound role.
“It was my job that game to protect him (Christian McCaffrey),” McKinney said after the game. via ESPN’s Jordan Raanan. “I thought I did a pretty good job taking him out of the game. It was different. … Different monsters down there.”
McKinney was a threat near the line of scrimmage on Sunday. Not only did he lock McCaffrey in, but he also managed to deflect two pass attempts from Baker Mayfield.
The Giants sacked Mayfield twice Sunday, limiting him to 14 completions on 29 attempts (48.3 percent completions) for 145 yards, one touchdown and a 74.6 passer rating.
The one area where the Wink Martindale defense does exceptionally well is in third place. The Giants have conceded just five third-down conversions on 23 attempts (21.7 percent), the best rate of any NFL team that has played two games this season.
That performance is particularly impressive considering the Giants were without their two top pass rushers, Azeez Ojulari and Kayvon Thibodeaux. The New York defense didn’t miss a beat as center-back Leonard Williams went down on Sunday.
If New York’s top defensemen get healthy (and stay healthy), Martindale’s unit has the potential to be among the best in the NFL this season.