Believe it or not, the New York Giants defense is tied for the eighth-most sacks in football, amassing 22 sacks over their first nine games of the season. Even more impressive, they’ve done so without a true edge presence. Could a newly-released pass rusher help add a jolt to the unit?
On Monday the Atlanta Falcons waived outside linebacker Takk McKinley, ending a chaotic three and a half year run in Atlanta. A former first-rounder out of UCLA in 2017, McKinley certainly comes with his fair share of question marks. Yet, his intriguing upside has already led many to connect the dots in search of McKinley’s next landing spot. According to The Goat House, two NFC East teams in particular would serve as logical suitors for the 25-year-old, noting that the “Giants and Cowboys are teams to look out for.”
NJ.com’s Zack Rosenblatt added to that notion via Twitter, proclaiming “the Giants should absolutely put in a waiver claim” for McKinley. The Giants currently hold the third spot in waiver priority behind their MetLife roommates, the New York Jets, as well as the 1-7 Jacksonville Jaguars.
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Does McKinley Fit the Giants’ Culture?
Joe Judge is trying to build something special in New York. Yes, his tactics may come off a bit rash at times from the outside looking in. With that said, when you take over a franchise that has become synonymous with losing for much of the past decade, you’re going to ruffle a few feathers.
With Judge’s Belichick-ian ways comes a certain standard the players must live up to. Don’t believe me? Ask Golden Tate, who was benched in Week 9 for hollering for more targets to a camera the week prior.
In the case of McKinley, the fact that he called out his now ex-employer publically likely doesn’t earn him brownie points from Judge. This would seemingly not bode well for a McKinley-Giants marriage considering the organization has shifted their roster decisions to “satisfy Judge’s vision,” per NJ.com’s Art Stapleton.
Here’s the Tweet that got McKinley in hot water with the Falcons last week:
These @AtlantaFalcons turned down a 2nd round draft pick when I requested to get traded last year.
The same @AtlantaFalcons turned down a 5th and 6th round draft pick from multiple teams when I requested to get traded this year. I only have 17.5 career sacks.
— Takkarist McKinley (@Takk) November 4, 2020
Stapleton did highlight the fact that Giants defensive back coach Jerome Henderson spent three seasons with McKinley on Atlanta’s coaching staff. Considering how much the team has leaned on past player-coach connections to fill out their roster this season, Henderson’s word could be what ultimately decides McKinley’s potential fate in New York.
McKinley, a Low-Risk Talent that Fills a Need
The fact of the matter is, McKinley’s upside at a position of need could potentially sway the Giants to still pull the trigger on the edge rusher. As Rosenblatt notes, the signing would be a low-risk move, which if it pans out, could pay huge dividends over the long haul.
“He’s only due about $875,000 for the rest of this season and will become a free agent in the offseason,” Rosenblatt said of McKinley. “If bringing him in were to work out, the Giants found a 25-year-old pass rusher at a low cost and can either work to bring him back in 2021 or reap the reward of a compensatory draft pick in 2022.”
Interestingly enough, as Rosenblatt goes on to point out, should the Giants claim McKinley, he’d instantly grade out as their top-rated pass-rusher. In what has been a perceived down year for McKinley, he’s notched a Pro Football Focus grade of 69.8. This grade is only bested by rookie Carter Coughlin, who has logged a mere 11 defensive snaps this season.
McKinley’s best season to date came back in 2018, where he led the Falcons in sacks with 7.0. In 49 career games (25 starts) the ex-UCLA standout has recorded 17.5 sacks, 45 QB Hits, 79 total tackles and 22 tackles for loss.
In terms of the current outlook of New York’s outside linebackers, Kyler Fackrell has certainly exceeded expectations as an under-the-radar signing this offseason. The Ex-Green Bay Packer leads all Giants players at his position with three sacks, adding one forced fumble and one interception for good measure. Oshane Ximines is also likely to return from injured reserve within the next few weeks. However, with Lorenzo Carter done for the season (torn ACL), the Giants are at the moment left with a rotation of Jabaal Sheard, Trent Harris, Cam Brown and the aforementioned Carter Caughlin behind Fackrell.
Safe to say the addition of McKinney wouldn’t hurt, at least from a pure talent perspective.
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