Blake Martinez Anticipates Having a Different Kind of Role in the Giants' Defense

Patricia Traina

Giants inside linebacker Blake Martinez is aware of the criticisms about the lack of impact plays in his game. 

But that was in the past when he spent the last two years of his NFL career in a system that he said deploys the role of the inside linebackers a little differently than what the Giants might be envisioning for the position.

“I just think the way that they valued the inside linebacker position, especially in that defense it wasn't as valued as other places,” Martinez said during a conference call with Giants beat reporters when asked about the role he played in the Green Bay Packers' defense.  

“Overall, it was one of the things where we were just in different wavelengths on where I valued myself and how they valued it.”

That difference in philosophy, Martinez said, its probably why his critics see him as a player who doesn’t make as many impact plays as one might expect from an inside linebacker, and why his tackle numbers, which over the last three seasons have been at least 144, are misleading to some.

“I think that's the one misconception of me,” he said. “The way that we ran the defense at least the last two years, I'm put into like the cleanup crew.

“There were a lot of situations where you see numerous other defenses where it's just like, ‘Okay, you have a B-gap responsibility as the inside linebacker. You have one-gap responsibilities.' But in (the Packers) defense, I was told to be kind of, like I said, the cleanup crew guy where there weren't any gap responsibilities for me.”

Put another way, if someone messed up an assignment or something didn't go according to plan, it was Martinez's responsibility to stop the bleeding whether it was close to the line of scrimmage or down the field.

With Martinez and the Packers having different opinions of how his talents should be deployed, Martinez's decision to join Patrick Graham, his linebackers coach in 2018 with the Packers now the Giants defensive coordinator, was easy.

That one season in which Martinez and Graham worked together saw the former Stanford star record 144 tackles and career highs in sacks (5.0) and passes defensed (3).

“What made me so excited to work with him is how smart he is,” Martinez said of Graham. “I think he's probably the smartest coach I've ever been around-- just the preparation that he puts in every week, his intensity and just how much he cares about the game of football.

“It just allowed me to go into games fully prepared. I never felt like I didn't know what play was going to happen.”

Martinez said he still doesn’t know exactly what Graham is planning to run with the Giants as he’s yet to receive a playbook, but he had some guesses as to what Giants fans might expect.

“I think just from the understanding Pat and what he's looking for and how he kind of put forth certain things within (Packers defensive coordinator) Coach (Mike) Pettine's defense, it's just the aggressive nature of everyone working together,” Martinez said.

“Everyone needing to be on the same page, everyone needing to be communicating and everyone knowing exactly where to be and what to do on every given call--there's not going to be much or, if any, mental errors because I know he's stressed that a bunch."

That communication is vital for a Giants defense that is still relatively young and which toward the end of last year at times looked confused regarding various responsibilities on the field, that confusion leading to breakdowns and big plays.

But that all is hopefully in the past as the Giants defense looks to rise up the league rankings from its 28th ranking last year to a spot in the top 10.  

“I don't know if (the defense) going to be simple, but it's going to be able to be understood by all 11 9guys) that are out there,” Martinez said.

Martinez, as the man who will line everyone up, is looking forward to helping Graham orchestrate all of it. 

“Overall, there is going to be a lot of freedom, I think, for me to play, to make checks, to make calls, [and] make little adjustments within a given play pre-snap to give guys chances to make plays,” he said. 

“So there's going to be a lot of communication across the board. I think it's going to be an awesome defense now. I'm just waiting to be able to finally get to learn it and see what he has for us.”