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LB Benardrick McKinney Quickly Earning Trust of Giants Defense

The addition of inside linebacker Benardrick McKinney helped the Giants plug a leak in their run defense last week.

Sometimes all it takes is a second chance with another team to get a faltering career back on track.

And although it's still relatively early in his Giants tenure, that seems to be the case for inside linebacker Benardrick McKinney, whom the Giants signed to their practice squad on October 19 to provide some depth at inside linebacker after losing Blake Martinez for the season to a torn ACL.

McKinney, 6'4 and 257 pounds is a 2015 second-round draft pick of the Houston Texans out of Mississippi State. In six seasons with the Texans, McKinney developed into a pretty good run-stopping linebacker who logged 532 tackles (including a season-high 129 in 2016), 35 tackles for a loss, and 11.5 sacks while also earning his first and only (to date) Pro Bowl nod in 2018.

After suffering a season-ending shoulder injury in 2020, McKinney was traded during the 2021 off-season to the Miami Dolphins last off-season with a 2021 seventh-round draft pick in exchange for defensive end Shaq Lawson and a 2021 sixth-round pick.

Things didn't quite work out for McKinney in Miami, who cut him at the end of training camp this year. The veteran linebacker was signed to the Giants practice squad to provide depth among their linebacker corps several weeks later.

In limited action as a Giant, the veteran has risen to the challenge.

"Since he’s been here, he’s a very focused player. You can see the experience carry over," said head coach Joe Judge.

"The communication right away jumped out with him. You can tell right away just in practice last week that there were things, just natural things – he didn’t have every call or check for us right away, but he can call out certain things based on alignments, tips, tendencies, just from being in the league of what it may be, so the communication jumped out right away."

McKinney's rapid grasp of the Giants' defense led to him being elevated just days after arriving in East Rutherford. In 11 defensive snaps, he recorded two tackles, two stops and allowed just one out of two-pass targets against him to be completed for one yard.

Most impressive about McKinney's limited snaps was one of his two tackles in which he stepped into the hole, met the back in the hole, and stopped the back dead in his tracks.

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A true jumbo inside linebacker, it could just be a matter of when this jumbo inside linebacker is signed to the 53-man roster where, if he is promoted, he'll likely cut into some of Reggie Ragland's snaps.

Judge said he was particularly impressed with how McKinney immediately went to work to get himself up to speed.

"You can tell he has a system and a process he follows. The way he takes notes, the way he checks back on things, the questions he asks are very in-tune," he said.

"The communication he has with the guys sitting next to him, making sure he’s around guys he’s going to be communicating with on the field. He brings an intensity to practice that showed up in the game last week. That’s something you really like."

Despite McKinney's being one of the new kids on the block, Judge said he's already seen some of the younger players start to gravitate toward the 28-year-old.

"I think you can see just whether it’s a young guy that’s kind of looking at an older guy who’s kind of done it or maybe an older guy who you turn around and say, ‘Okay, this guy’s in this room now, here we go.’ I think he’s been a positive influence," he said.

"I think when anyone comes in with that, that definitely grabs your attention, but I think beyond that, it’s more about how the guy handles himself and prepares. There’s a lot of talented guys who go to different teams, and you hear horror stories at times where they go in there, and it causes some kind of division, dissension, or whatever it may be. It causes issues more so than helping.

"I think when a guy comes in with the right team attitude and prepares the way that B-Mac has, that actually helps the team and brings them together more and really helps the team go ahead and play more as a unit."


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