No offense to anyone who has played the position for the past decade or so, but the New York Giants probably haven’t had a true “quarterback” in the middle of their defense since Antonio Pierce, who last played in 2009.
Blake Martinez wants to change that.
“That’s the reason I think I’m here is to be that guy,” Martinez told New York media during a Thursday videoconference.
“I pride myself on not being too flustered at any moments and being that kind of rock for the defense. Especially me being the quote, unquote quarterback of the defense, being that guy that’s always calm, cool and collected.
“Our big focus is everyone focus on the fundamentals and do what we need to do each day to kind of grow as individuals. Then, overall for me it’s just being able to allow those guys to understand that I’m going to be on top of everything from checks, making sure people are lined up in the right position, that I’m that calming factor.”
The Giants, looking for leadership and play-making at the linebacker level, signed Martinez to a three-year, $30.75 million contract this offseason. Martinez, entering his fifth NFL season, comes off three straight seasons of 144 or more tackles with the Green Bay Packers.
“I just take every single day to keep chipping at that. Whether it’s walk-throughs, talking in meetings, guys start to recognize that OK this guy knows what’s going on, this guy’s going to allow me to not have any freak-out moments or if things are moving fast that he’s the guy I can turn to and kind of calm myself down.”
What, for Martinez, is the challenge of learning a defense well enough that he can be the “calming factor” when there was no offseason program and still has been no on-field work beyond walk-throughs?
“That’s kind of the challenge of this right now. Everything right now, challenges pop up every single day. In the playbook aspect it’s just nailing down on things and doing whatever’s necessary ... it’s going to take that much more effort, just kind of chipping away to get where I need to be when the season eventually is going.”
Martinez is curious how Joe Judge and the Giants will structure practices later in camp to add competitive elements in lieu of a preseason. He is using the current practice structure to hone simple fundamentals fans generally don’t notice or think about.
“This’ll be my fifth year in the league. For me it’s kind of I should know how to tackle and do all these things,” Martinez said. “It’s just working on the fundamentals. Whether it’s the right feet, the right stance, the right approach to a tackle, the perfect drops and things like that.”
Having played in Green Bay with Giants’ defensive coordinator Patrick Graham as the team’s defensive line coach in 2018 gives Martinez some comfort.
“We have a great relationship,” Martinez said. “It makes it a lot easier just to walk into his office any time with any concerns I have or certain questions I have I can just go straight to him and we can chat. It’s made it a lot easier.”
In the end, what everyone hopes is that Martinez make life easier for Graham and the defensive players on the field. That’s what he is getting paid for, and it was apparent on Thursday it is a responsibility he takes seriously.