New York Giants linebacker Blake Martinez said Friday on an introductory conference call that defensive coordinator Patrick Graham is “probably the smartest coach I’ve ever been around.”
Martinez, who joined the Giants on a three-year, $30.75 million contract, had Graham as his position coach with the Green Bay Packers in 2018.
“I think he is probably the smartest coach I’ve ever been around. The preparation he puts in every week, his intensity, just how much he cares about the game of football. It just allowed me to go in every Sunday or Monday or Thursday games fully prepared,” Martinez said. “I never felt like I didn’t know what play was going to happen next. He put that much into it and that’s how it easy it was us to understand what he was communicating to us that made everything so much easier.”
While no one knows exactly what to expect from a Graham-led defense, with his only season in that role being 2019 with a talent-depleted Miami Dolphins team.
What does Martinez expect?
“Just from understanding Pat and what he is looking for and how he put forth certain things in Coach [Mike] Pettine’s defense, I think it’s just the aggressive nature. Everyone working together, everyone on the same page, everyone communicating. Everyone is going to know exactly where to be and what to do on every given call. There’s not going to be much, if any, mental errors at all. I know he stressed that a bunch,” Martinez said. “I don’t know if it is going to be simple but it will be understood by all 11 that are out there. Overall, there is going to be a lot of freedom for me to make checks, make calls and adjustments on a given play pre-snap to give guys chances to make plays. There is going to be a lot of communication across the board. I think it is going to be an awesome defense and I’m just waiting to finally be able to get to learn and see what he has for us.”
There are two views of Martinez’s play with the Green Bay Packers, that he doesn’t cover well and that his tackles have too often come down the field instead of at or near the line of scrimmage. The four-year veteran hinted that the defensive scheme in Green Bay contributed to that, calling himself “the clean-up crew guy.”
“I think that’s the one misconception of me, I guess the public view. The way we ran the defense, at least the last two years, is I’m kind of put into the clean-up crew guy,” said Martinez, adding that with the Packers he was often the only linebacker on the field. “I know there’s been things like you make tackles down the field, you make tackles here, you make tackles there. For the majority of the time there that’s what I was told to do. It’s just me I guess doing my job in that sense.
“Going into this defense, once I learn being whatever it ends up being how we play. I hope I am able to trigger it, solo gaps, do those type of things and make those type of impact plays.”
Martinez also disputed the notion that he’s a liability in coverage. He said he believes “completely” that he can be a modern all-around linebacker.
“There were probably two times last year that I was called to, I guess, man coverage somebody that I made my own mental mistakes on,” Martinez said. “But for the most part, other than that, my coach last year, he basically was like ‘Oh yeah, you’re one of the best, if not the best, zone coverage linebackers I’ve ever been around’. Being able to see the field, see crossing routes, being able to communicate, do all those types of things. I think the tough part that obviously, same thing, where it’s been like ‘Oh yeah, Blake, coverage this thing, blah blah blah,’ whatever it ends up being, whatever critics or those types of things. It’s been certain situations where within those given calls or zone calls, because last year we played a lot of match coverage zone, so it looks like we’re in man coverage but technically we have inside help or outside help or being able to pass off and those types of things.
“There were small communication lapses and misunderstandings, where we were able to pass off, which totally understood from the public perception, you look at it and be like ‘Oh what the heck? Shouldn’t this guy be covering him? Or shouldn’t Blake be covering him?’ Those types of things. But overall, I think I am able to do whatever I’m asked to do. I can go and cover tight ends, I can go and cover running backs, I can play in zones, I can do all of the things that you need to do as an inside linebacker.”
Welcome to Big Blue, @Big__Blake50!— New York Giants (@Giants) March 30, 2020
5 things to know about our new LB ⤵️
The tweet above shows Martinez signing his Giants contract. No, it’s not in a public gym. It’s the workout facility in his Arizona home.
“We started this project last year. We built a facility that has a living area, it has a weight room, turf field and it has a basketball court. Me and my dad made this project together,” Martinez said. “It was weirdly at a perfect time because we have to be quarantined. So I’m basically quarantined in a weight room. It’s been awesome for me. The picture was taken in the weight room part of the facility.”
Martinez said it was “50/50” whether or not he would leave the Packers.
“I think the way they value the inside linebacker position especially in that defense, it wasn’t as valued as other places I guess in my opinion,” Martinez said. “Overall, it was one of the things where they offered me, and we were just in different wave lengths on where I valued myself and where they valued it.”
Martinez is looking forward to being the leader of the Giants’ young defense.
“I think they have a group that is extremely talented smart guys, great players all across the board on offense and defense. It’s going to be cool to grow that group together,” Martinez said. “For me, going from last year or I guess two years ago when we were 6-9-1 to all of the sudden going 13-3. Seeing the little things you had to change and adapt to and incorporate within a given week, a given offseason, within a different training camp that just allowed the defense to mesh in a certain way that allowed us to be so successful last year.
“I think I can incorporate those things into this defense and this team and I think it will be an awesome thing that we are going to do throughout this next season.”