Giants' Joe Judge, James Bradberry praise 'intelligent' and 'tremendous' Xavier McKinney

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Xavier McKinney makes INT versus Eagles at MetLife white color rush jerseys
Xavier McKinney makes INT versus Eagles at MetLife white color rush jerseys

When the Giants selected safety Xavier McKinney out of Alabama with the 36th pick in the 2020 NFL Draft, they expected an immediate impact.

Unfortunately for the Giants, McKinney fractured his foot, and missed the first 10 games of his rookie season.

But since getting on the field, he has made his mark. He intercepted Andy Dalton in the season finale last year to keep the Giants' playoff hopes alive. In his past six games, McKinney has five interceptions.

"Zay is a very, very intelligent player. Very intelligent," said head coach Joe Judge. "He’s a guy that when you evaluated him coming out of college, you saw him all over the field making plays, blitzing, playing the deep part of the field, matching up in man. He’s got a really, really, big skill set."

Not only is McKinney putting up numbers for himself, but his play has benefitted the remainder of the secondary, as well.

"I think it just gives us more confidence as DBs knowing that we’ve got playmakers behind us that are going to go back there and make plays anytime a quarterback attempts to throw it deep on us," said cornerback James Bradberry, who held rookie sensation -- and McKinney's college teammate -- Devonta Smith to just two catches for 22 yards Sunday in a 13-7 win over the Philadelphia Eagles. "We’ve just got more confidence in our guys around us when you see them making plays like that. We’re happy to see him make plays like that. We want to play aggressive so quarterbacks can throw it back there to try to test it."

"You’ve got to have someone back there in the deep part of the field, No. 1, who has the range and ability to go ahead and play the deep part of the field sideline to sideline, but then also someone who has the awareness and instincts to get there and get a good jump on it," added Judge.

Veteran safety Logan Ryan has missed the past two games due to a positive COVID-19 test, but McKinney has stepped up for the Giants.

"it’s an opportunity for a young guy to really go ahead and develop his voice within the defense in terms of on the field command and tying things together," Judge said. "He’s a guy that when you put him out there, he’s not afraid to open up and he’s not afraid to play fast. This guy plays aggressive, makes a lot of plays and he plays very confident. ... This guy is really a tremendous guy to have in the building."