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Blake Martinez’s return should bolster Giants defense

Veteran LB must return to form after ACL tear

NFL: New England Patriots at New York Giants Dennis Schneidler-USA TODAY Sports

When Blake Martinez went down with an ACL tear last season, the New York Giants’ linebacker corps fell into disarray. Will his return be enough for the position to once again be a strength for Big Blue? Let’s discuss as we continue our player-by-player profiles of the Giants 90-man roster heading into training camp.

By the numbers

Height: 6-foot-2
Weight: 237
Age: 28
Position: Linebacker
Experience: 7 years
Contract: One-year, $1.25 million (guaranteed) | Pro-rated bonus (from original three-year deal): $6.25 million | Cap hit: $7.676 million

Career to date

Martinez was drafted in the fourth round of the 2016 draft by the Green Bay Packers and quickly emerged as one of the league’s top tacklers. The fewest amount of tackles he has ever recorded in a full season was 144 in 2017 — and that was enough to lead the NFL that year.

Over the next few years, Martinez quietly developed a reputation as a cornerstone of Green Bay’s defense. He has yet to be named to a Pro Bowl and isn’t among the league’s most recognizable faces, but his high football IQ and strong instincts made him a reliable force in the middle of the field.

The Giants signed Martinez as a free agent in 2020. He was quickly named a team captain and played 97 percent of the team’s defensive snaps. He posted 151 tackles — 86 of them unassisted — and nine tackles for loss. No one else on the team had more than 100 tackles. Martinez posted a run STOP percentage (tackles resulting in failed offensive plays) of 8.9 percent, 10th per Pro Football Focus among 52 qualifying linebackers. His averaged depth of tackle of 4.0 yards on run plays was 27th.

Martinez tore his ACL in Week 3 of the 2021 season against the Atlanta Falcons. He accepted a pay cut to remain with the Giants this year rather than test free agency coming off an injury.

2022 outlook

There’s an argument to be made that a healthy Martinez is the best player on the Giants defense, or at least the most consistent. He may not have the ceiling of someone like Leonard Williams (or potentially Kayvon Thibodeaux), but his floor is very high assuming the ACL tear has no lingering effects. His veteran leadership is also even more important now that Logan Ryan is in Tampa Bay.

To see how vital Martinez was to New York, you only need to look at Tae Crowder’s snap counts from last year. Crowder was on the field for 94 percent of the defense’s snaps once Martinez went down. Not to knock Crowder, but in an ideal situation a former seventh-round pick is not a team’s primary starting inside linebacker. Depth behind Martinez remains an issue. Crowder, Carter Coughlin and rookies Micah McFadden and Darrian Beavers are the remaining top options.

Martinez will also be learning a new scheme with defensive coordinator Wink Martindale. Martinez is not known as a pass rusher, but Martindale has a penchant for bringing pressure from all areas of the field. It’s possible we see Martinez trying to get to the quarterback at least slightly more often.

“Being able to go here and come back from my knee injury, go show Wink and build that relationship with him throughout training camp, all the process, OTAs, and everything is I think going to be that much more rewarding when it happens,” Martinez told reporters in April. “Everyone loves to make sacks, and make big plays. Super excited.”