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Xavier McKinney preparing to be defensive play caller for 2022

For the first time in his professional career Xavier McKinney will quarterback the defense.

New York Giants Training Camp Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images

Coming into his third season in his professional career safety Xavier McKinney looks like he will be stepping into an even bigger role for the New York Giants. Speaking with the media today, McKinney talked about being the play caller for Wink Martindale for the upcoming 2022 season.

“Right now, I’m getting the signals. Like I said, it’s a process. Obviously, it’s a little different, but I did it in OTAs, so I’m pretty much used to it now. But yeah, I’m getting the plays around.“

The main play caller for the Giants defense has been Blake Martinez since signing in 2020, the only other play caller has been Tae Crowder while Martinez was injured. McKinney has gotten some help though, with Wink giving him former All-Pro Eric Weddle’s number.

McKinney said, “So we were talking about it a little bit during OTAs. We kind of went back and forth about it. Then he actually gave me Weddle’s number. Then we talked, and then we scheduled a couple phone calls, got on a call, kind of went through some things, went through some film stuff. I asked him some questions. He just gave me some tips about a lot of different things. It was really helpful, and I enjoyed getting that experience from him.”

“He gave me a lot of good insight,” McKinney added. “He definitely helped me. Just being in OTAs, obviously, I was the play-caller and he was the play-caller all the time, so he definitely helped me with being able to communicate it the right way and being on the same page with Wink. He kind of just let me know that Wink is an open book, and he’s definitely a player’s coach – somebody that’s going to listen.”

Getting advice from a six-time pro bowler and someone from the 2010 all-decade team that quarterbacked Martindale’s defense for multiple seasons will provide plenty of insight for McKinney.

While this might be something a little different for McKinney while wearing a Giants uniform, there is at least some experience there with formally being the defensive play caller during his time at Alabama.

“I mean I guess for me because the last two years it has been the backer. Obviously for me it’s different. I talked to Wink and it’s not something that’s new to me. I’ve done it before – I did it at ’Bama. It’s not something that’s surprising or it’s not something that’s too hard. It’s different when you’ve got grown men in the huddle and you’re trying to get the call to everybody. Obviously being on the backend of it, you might have to run 30-yards and run back to get the play to everybody. It’s not too unusual to me.”

While there have been some bumps in the road so far, it looks like everyone on the defense is starting to get on the same page with adjusting to a new play caller.

McKinney said, “Yeah, you’ve definitely got to say it with your chest, but it’s not too bad. I think once everybody got used to my voice – just hearing it – they got used to being able to get the whole call. Obviously, we’ve had some hiccups here and there because it was new to everybody, but I think we’re good now. I’m making sure I’m still getting it to the backers, and they’ll get it to the front. We’re working through it, obviously. Not too bad.“

McKinney continues to climb in his role since being selected in the second round of the 2020 NFL draft. With Martinez being limited from injury and Martindale’s preference to have his secondary run his defense, it was only natural that McKinney would be the one taking this next step in his NFL career.