Joe Judge Stresses Versatility As a Core Principle For Giants

Jackson Thompson

Giants head coach Joe Judge has made it clear that versatility will be central to his team's philosophy in 2020 and beyond. 

The drafting of safety Xavier McKinney was one example of that priority. The Giants picked McKinney in the second round out of Alabama with their 36th overall selection in this year's draft. 

McKinney spent 32.9 percent of his snaps at free safety, 34.5 percent of his snaps in the box and 27.5 percent as a slot cornerback for the Crimson Tide in 2019. 

According to Judge, McKinney's versatility was one of the major selling points for their draft decision, and that philosophy extends to the rest of the secondary.

"[McKinney's] role will be different based on different game plans," Judge said during a video teleconference on Friday. "He’ll have a chance, like all our other players will, to establish what he is going to be in our defense based on how he performs in this next month of football."

"Versatility is a huge part of our systems; offense, defense, and the kicking game. Our defense is going to be multiple both by base scheme and based on the gameplan and who the opponent is. You are going to see four to six DB’s on the field at certain times."

That mentality is also set to manifest on the Giants' offense as well, specifically on the offensive line.

With veteran offensive tackle Nate Solder's decision to opt-out of the 2020 season, the Giants will need to experiment with offensive line combinations and prepare their linemen to be flexible if further changes need to be made later on.

"We are going to play all of our offensive linemen at multiple positions right and left," Judge said. "We are going to have multiple guys playing inside at center and outside at tackle.

"We want to cross-train all of our players. You can’t just play right tackle or left tackle, or right corner or left corner ... All our guys are working to switch sides and mirror their technique and play effectively for a game."

Judge's emphasis on versatility is noticeable in several of the Giants' other 2020 defensive draft picks 

Cornerback Darnay Holmes, the Giants' fourth-round pick out of UCLA, is another example of a versatile defensive back, having played both in the slot and at the perimeter in college.  

With more and more NFL teams turning to the nickel package as their base defense, players with Holmes' vast skill set as a scheme-versatile nickel defender, will be essential. 

Holmes brings the ability to be a man coverage eraser, instinctive zone playmaker or a reliable run defender, and should find playing time at multiple spots in new defensive coordinator Patrick Graham's system.

In the front seven, the drafting of linebacker Cam Brown out of Penn State in the sixth round gives the Giants a player capable of playing inside or on the edge. 

Brown was originally recruited to play defensive end, but didn't put on enough weight for the position and was moved to inside linebacker. He believes the skills he developed as an edge rusher early on prepared to him to tackle modern offenses as a standup linebacker.

"With my versatility I can play either that outside linebacker position for [the Giants] or inside as one or the two box players because I did do a little bit of both at Penn State." Brown said during his post-draft interview. 

"I sat over the slot my whole college career pretty much so I feel like [coverage] is nothing I'm uncomfortable with."

With one of the NFL's youngest rosters, Judge the opportunity to be very experimental with his young players that have yet to find a defined role, and he will look test their skills in a variety of different roles until a game plan is set. 

Judge comes from a coaching background with the New England Patriots that has had made it a custom of instilling that versatility across every area of their roster. Getting those players acclimated to different roles will ensure that the team is better prepared to make adjustments on a week-to-week basis and even during games. 

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