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New York Giants Defense's Mantra: No More Mr. Nice Guy

The Giants defense is tired of being pushed around, and under new defensive coordinator Wink Martindale, they're looking to go from being bullied to being the bully.

Giants defensive coordinator Don "Wink" Martindale is only about four months into his employment with the team. But in having done his research on the Giants' defensive talent, he knows about how the unit has been pushed around by opponents a little too often.

And Martindale, the team’s unabating defensive coordinator who built a reputation for mercilessly blitzing NFL quarterbacks during a predominantly four-year successful run as defensive coordinator with the Baltimore Ravens, is here to change the narrative.

“You want to dictate to the offense instead of sitting there and letting them dictate to you,” Martindale said Thursday before the team’s sixth OTA practice. “I think this is a game of adjustments and matchups and everything else, but I would rather them have the headache and stay up five nights before we play them figuring out what we’re going to do and try to present different looks every time we play because pressure does break pipes.

“You have a great quarterback; you want him to be able to make quick decisions. If you have an average quarterback, you want him to change up your different looks coverage-wise and everything else. But at the end of the day, you want the quarterback on his back. I don't care if he throws it or not--if you can just get quarterback hits, they know who they are playing against.”

Martindale’s approach to fixing a Giants pass rush that last year allowed opposing quarterbacks an average of 2.72 seconds to throw (for reference purposes, ideally, a defense aims for 2.5 seconds or less) is one that, on paper, should make a difference.

Whether the Giants have everything they need to build the defense in Martindale’s vision is another story.

The addition of edge rusher Kayvon Thibodeaux is a significant step in the right direction, as he’ll pair with second-year man ()and Giants 2021 sack leader) Azeez Ojulari to apply the pressure of the edges, which will hopefully create more opportunities for guys like Leonard Williams and the rest of the defense to penetrate gaps and rush the passers.

New York Giants rookie linebacker Kayvon Thibodeaux (5) on the field for organized team activities (OTAs) at the training center in East Rutherford on Thursday, May 19, 2022.
Nov 1, 2021; Kansas City, Missouri, USA; New York Giants cornerback Aaron Robinson (33) before the game against the Kansas City Chiefs at GEHA Field at Arrowhead Stadium.
Nov 7, 2021; East Rutherford, New Jersey, USA; New York Giants free safety Xavier McKinney (29) celebrates his interception return for a touchdown against the Las Vegas Raiders with tight end Evan Engram (88) and nose tackle Austin Johnson (98) during the third quarter at MetLife Stadium.

“Just all his different flexibilities and the way we can use him in the scheme and his pass-rush ability,” Martindale said when asked what he liked about Thibodeaux. “He's a bright, very football-smart kid that has a lot of aspirations and goals, and don't we all want our kids to have aspirations and goals. I've loved him since Day 1."

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But there are question marks about the Giants secondary, which parted ways with safety Logan Ryan and cornerback James Bradberry, the latter due to a salary cap squeeze.

However, Martindale is encouraged by what he’s seen so far from the young defensive backs competing to replace those two veterans.

“Yeah, like A-Rob (Aaron Robinson), initially just come to my mind,” he said, referencing the early odds-on favorite to replace Bradberry in the starting lineup. “I think he's been doing well.”

And the others?

“They are all competing,” Martindale said. “It's hard when you sit there and look at all the different corners right now because of how early it is. You know, we haven't even had a practice in pads yet.

And also, they are not in their top training camp fall shape yet. But what I've seen, I do like. I love that room. And I think we've got the best secondary coach in the league, Jerome Henderson. I'm excited about that room.”

While Martindale will have to wait to find out if he has what he needs to build the defense he envisions, he’s also vowed not to change his core beliefs or philosophies.

“Look, we'll control the narrative. That's what I'll tell you. We control the narrative,” he said. “People can say what they want to say. We'll see when it's time to kick it off down there in Nashville, where we’re going to be by then. But we control the narrative in the room, and I'm excited about this season.”

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