The New York Giants returned to the facility on Monday after enjoying a bye week in which they watched themselves pull just a half-game out of first place in the NFC East. When they take the field this Sunday in striking distance of staking claim to the division lead, they may just be doing so with two of their most promising youngsters on defense.
Outside linebacker Oshane Ximines and rookie safety Xavier McKinney, both of whom are on injured reserve, have been designated to return to practice. The team now has a 21 day period to either activate them or keep them on I.R. for the remainder of the year.
While their availability for this coming weekend’s game against the Cincinnati Bengals is currently unknown, head coach Joe Judge sounded optimistic when speaking to reporters today. “Both have a chance for Sunday,” Judge said of McKinney and Ximines. According to Giants.com’s Dan Solomone, “They were flying around today, but it was mostly individual work. They [Giants] will see how they do once they start hitting with the pads on.”
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Ximines & McKinney’s Outlook Moving Forward
Both of these players entered 2020 with sky-high expectations. Ximines was an offseason darling, with many outlets pegging him as New York’s breakout star for the season. Not to be outdone by the hype, CBS Sports’ Bryant McFadden made a bold prediction in which McKinney would not only win Defensive Rookie of the Year, but would also make the Pro Bowl and an All-Pro team.
Obviously, none of these predictions came to fruition, as injuries and uneven playing time struck. Ximines, who ranked second on the team in sacks (4.5) as a rookie in 2019, has not appeared in a game since sustaining a shoulder injury in Week 4. Yet, even when available, he played just 40% of the team’s defensive snaps, recording zero sacks, three QB hits and one tackle for loss. With that said, Ximines could be in for an uptick in usage when he returns, as Lorenzo Carter’s season-ending injury and the trade of Markus Golden has left a need on the edge for Big Blue.
In terms of McKinney, the former First-Team All-SEC selection has yet to make his NFL debut, as a fractured left foot in late August derailed the first half of his rookie campaign. However, all is not lost, as McKinney can still prove to be a difference-maker on the backend of New York’s defense.
The highly versatile safety was one of only five safeties to play over 450 snaps in the box, slot and at free safety over the past two College Football seasons. Out of that group, McKinney was the only player to produce a Pro Football Focus grade of 70.0+ at all three alignments.
Expect McKinney to carve out a large role as the next few weeks go on. Julian Love has struggled in his second season, while there remains a glaring hole opposite James Bradberry. With Logan Ryan’s ability to play cornerback and the versatility of Jabrill Peppers at safety, New York will have numerous opportunities to get their most talented defensive backs on the field, and chances are, McKinney is one of them.
Giants Activate 2 Off Reserve/COVID List, 4 Remain On
In other news, the Giants have announced that punter Riley Dixon and long snapper Casey Kreiter were activated off the Reserve/Covid-19 list. Both players were originally placed on the list last Wednesday.
Still, four Giants remain on the list; kicker Graham Gano, tight end Kaden Smith, rookie tackle Matt Peart and wide receiver/return specialist Dante Pettis.
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