Giants Bringing Back ‘Wink’ Martindale Favorite: Report

Jihad Ward

Getty The New York Giants are bringing back a free agent who's a favorite of defensive coordinator Don 'Wink' Martindale.

Don ‘Wink’ Martindale won’t have to do without one of his favorite players during his second season as defensive coordinator for the New York Giants. Not with the team looking set to bring outside linebacker Jihad Ward back on another one-year deal.

The news of Ward’s prospective return to MetLife Stadium was initially reported by ESPN’s Jordan Raanan:

Raanan’s update was added to when Dan Duggan of The Athletic retweeted Ward’s message: “See y’all soon.” Duggan also included this quote from Martindale: “Wherever I’m at, I hope I have Jihad Ward with me.”

Now it appears both Ward and Martindale will get their wish to continue working together for another season. The relationship began with the Baltimore Ravens and proved useful when the Giants were transitioning to Martindale’s blitz-heavy scheme in 2022.

Giants Smart to Retain Valuable Depth Piece

Ward’s statistics didn’t pop off the charts during his first season with Big Blue, but No. 55’s knowledge of Martindale’s playbook proved invaluable. The play-caller directs a system based on a sophisticated package of blitzes.

Ward helped relay Martindale’s complex array of pressure designs to his new teammates. He also brought an intensity and a vocal leadership the Giants needed as they quickly reset under a new coaching staff.

Having Ward on the field as an extra rusher in obvious passing situations also meant the Giants didn’t have to blitz. A Ward-led four-man rush got to then-Washington Commanders’ quarterback Taylor Heinicke on 2nd-and-long in Week 13:

Martindale blitzed Ward a career-high 29 times last season, per Pro Football Reference. The 28-year-old also played standup linebacker, defensive end and even lined up inside in certain fronts.

Combining his versatility and expertise on the field with his influence in the locker room meant the Giants got a lot from Ward for the mere cost of $1,047,500. Another team-friendly, veteran’s deal will ensure the Giants retain solid depth at one of the key positions along their front seven.

Giants Need Quality at Vital Position

Ward’s return is welcome because the Giants need numbers on the edges. Kayvon Thibodeaux and Azeez Ojulari have the potential to be a formidable pair of bookends, but both need to share snaps with others.

Ojulari missed 10 games with calf and ankle injuries, while Thibodeaux was also sidelined for three games and registered just four sacks as a rookie. The player selected fifth overall in the 2022 NFL draft showed signs of dominance and will only get better, but it won’t hurt to have a savvy mentor like Ward on hand for advice.

Quality reserves are lacking beyond Ward, with 2019 third-round pick Oshane Ximines also a free agent. Meanwhile, former practice squad member Quincy Roche opted to rejoin the team that drafted him, the Pittsburgh Steelers, back in January.

There’s still room for another gifted edge-rusher to be added to the mix, either via free agency or this year’s draft. The veteran class still houses names such as Melvin Ingram and ex-Giant Markus Golden.

It won’t be difficult for the Giants to find more pass-rush help to take Martindale’s aggressive and creative schemes up a level in the new season.

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