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Wink Martindale on Xavier McKinney, Azeez Ojulari, Jalen Hurts, more

Takeaways from Martindale’s Thursday media availability

NFL: Washington Commanders at New York Giants
Wink Martindale
Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

New York Giants safety Xavier McKinney has been the focus of some media attention this week as he got the pins removed from his surgically repaired left hand. What inquiring minds want to know is whether or not the talented safety will play again this season.

Giants defensive coordinator Wink Martindale isn’t one of those people trying to figure it out.

“I haven’t even asked, I didn’t even ask what’s happened, where he’s at or anything with it” Martindale said on Thursday. “I don’t want to sound callous to that when I say I haven’t asked because you know Dabs is going to take about all the injuries anyway. It’s just one of those years where you just walk around shaking our head like I can’t believe this because you’re playing so many different guys at different spots with the injuries that we’ve had.

“That’s why I like when I stand up here and say that I was proud of how hard we played as a defense last weekend, I’ve been proud of that all year. Whoever the 11 is that’s out there I can guarantee you one thing, they’re going to play hard. They’re going to represent this city and they’re going to represent this team the way it should be represented.

Here are more takeaways from Martindale’s media availability.

On Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts ...

“Well, I think the whole thing is like, I was telling the defensive staff, I know they’re not going to play the Pro Bowl this year, but they’re playing it in Philly because they’re talented across the board. Jalen is getting into that level, that top-tier quarterback, because you can just see the jump. We went against him his rookie year when he was playing sparingly, and then last year to this past year, he’s really worked on his throwing mechanics, his footwork, and it’s paying off for him. The same way it did for Patrick Mahomes. If you go back and look at those comparisons, it’s very similar. He is a triple threat.”

Why is Hurts such a good runner?

“I think it’s the power and balance he has coming out of his cuts. So, he can get you running and when he sits down and makes a cut, he comes out of it with power, compared to a lot of guys. The thing that makes him so tough to go against, he’s still looking to get the ball downfield until that last second where he says, ‘no I’m going to go’. It’s going to be a tough challenge for us.”

On defending Eagles wide receiver A.J. Brown ...

“Whew, got any ideas? It’s like they’ve got (wide receiver Terrell Owens) T.O. back there playing again. He’s a problem. We went against him when he was in Tennessee and he’s a big physical receiver that you’d have to fight every play. I told (defensive backs coach) Jerome Henderson if he was a defensive player, he’d be an outside backer that’s how physical he plays at wide receiver.”

On the return of Azeez Ojulari to the defense ...

“I think he was on a pitch count, Azeez was, and (senior VP of medical services) Ronnie Barnes asked me how many reps he had I said, “I forget”, I think he went over the pitch count. It’s a tribute to Azeez too, because he’s really worked his tail off in trying to get ready to go and get back from all the injuries that he’s had. It’s been a tough year for him, so I was really happy for him.”

On the growth of rookie Kayvon Thibodeaux ...

Martindale had said at one point that “there’s something new that stands out” about Thibodeaux each week. He was asked to explain further.

“It’s just little things that people don’t even see. Like, when he was the free runner to the quarterback which everybody thought in the stadium we had a safety, I know I did. He just came right off the edge where before he’d hesitate a little bit. Just little things like that. When you become a free runner like that and you’re not used to being a free runner, you feel like you’re almost falling off the edge of a diving board. You’re waiting for somebody to get you and then your like ‘oh, I’m free’ and he doesn’t hesitate, he knew he was going to be free.”

On rookie cornerback Zyon Gilbert, who played 56 snaps in NFL debut against Washington ...

“With the injuries that we’ve had we had to bring him up to have a corner out there and he’s been practicing well really the last month. I can remember saying something to him a month ago. His red zone one-on-one coverage he was getting after the receivers, and it stood out. He’s really starting to grasp the system and understand it, it’s important to him, he wants to play. One of the best characteristics you can have as a secondary player, especially a corner, is tackling. He tackled and he was aggressive. It was fun for me to watch and I was really happy for him.”

On the development of cornerback Nick McCloud ...

“He’s just a football player, because it’s not just number two corner. We play him everywhere. If you look at it, on third down, he goes inside, outside, doesn’t matter just wherever we want that matchup, and I told you guys that after the Dallas game. We doubled 88 on the play and he got beat by the tight end, I said that was just a good throw and catch bud. But he is a football player. You can count on him, you can trust him, he works at it, he studies, he asks all the right questions. I’m really excited for this kid and his career.”