The New York Giants already lacked depth at the safety position, a hole that was exploited when Xavier McKinney went on non-football injured reserve last year. McKinney is back this year, but fellow starter Julian Love is not.
Right now, it’s anyone’s guess who will be Love’s replacement. Jason Pinnock, who was a suitable backup for McKinney last year, could be one of the top options as training camp opens. Let’s take a look at what Pinnock has to offer.
By the numbers
Contract: Year 3 of three-year, $3.75 million rookie deal | 2023 cap hit: $940,000
Career to date
Pinnock was a cornerback in college at Pittsburgh, where he had six interceptions in 19 starts. He added 25 passes defended and 46 solo tackles during his four-year career, and got a bit of training from alum Darrelle Revis.
The New York Jets drafted Pinnock in the fifth round in 2021.
It wasn’t until midway through his rookie year that Pinnock converted to safety, once his ability as a physical tackler became apparent. He didn’t see significant playing time until Week 15, but he had 11 tackles and two fumble recoveries over the last three games of the season.
In a surprising move, the Jets cut Pinnock in late August 2022, just one year after drafting him. He had been taking reps with the first team at safety during training camp. The Giants claimed him off waivers the next day.
Pinnock began the season on special teams, where he made a couple of standout plays. When sMcKinney suffered a hand injury, the Giants first turned to rookie Dane Belton as a replacement. Belton struggled in his first two starts and was quickly replaced by Pinnock.
Defensive coordinator Wink Martindale used Pinnock as a blitzer for the first time in his career, and he had 1.5 sacks in his first Giants appearance. Pinnock’s best game came in a crucial Week 15 win over the Washington Commanders, when he had five tackles, two passes defended, a forced fumble and a quarterback hit. As the season progressed, Pinnock was also used in deep pass coverage and as a linebacker. He finished the year with a decent 61.3 PFF grade.
With Love now on the Seattle Seahawks, Pinnock is a realistic option to emerge as the Giants’ starting safety opposite McKinney.
The position battle could go one of a few ways, and it’s possible the Giants will be trying out different starters even once the regular season begins. Nick McCloud was working as a safety during OTAs and could follow in Pinnock’s footsteps as a converted cornerback. Belton, the Giants’ fourth-round pick last year, will also get an opportunity to earn the role. The Giants also signed veteran safety Bobby McCain as a free agent. Even though Pinnock is inexperienced, he’s still taken the most NFL snaps at safety out of those three options.
At a minimum, Pinnock’s year of experience with Martindale and ability on special teams should allow him to find some sort of role on the 2023 Giants. He’s one of the more versatile players on the roster and will have value as as rotational piece even if he’s not a starter.