The Giants suffered a huge blow Wednesday when they lost rookie safety Xavier McKinney to a broken foot and inside linebacker David Mayo to a torn meniscus.
McKinney's injury, for which he underwent surgery Wednesday afternoon at the Hospital for Special Surgery in Manhattan, appears to be the more significant of the two and is one that could keep him out of action for at least the first half of the season. In contrast, Mayo's upcoming surgery will merely be a trim that could see him back on the field in about three to four weeks.
McKinney's injury was reported to be a broken fifth metatarsal in his left foot. Still, it is unknown if he suffered a Jones fracture, potentially requiring an even longer recovery period.
"Xavier was a guy for us making a tremendous amount of improvement," said head coach Joe Judge."My only concern to this point is that he just continues to work as hard as he can to get back on the field and that we continue to develop him as a coaching staff, mentally, that he makes progress within the situational awareness and overall understandings of our schemes."
Still, with McKinney sidelined, the Giants, who were thought to be planning to unleash a three-safety set that featured McKinney, Jabrill Peppers, and Julian Love, will apparently be put on hold for the time being.
The Giants will, at least for the time being, look to the other players they have on their roster for a replacement for McKinney, who had been projected as the starting free safety. Here is a look at some possibilities.
Love, a fifth-round pick in 2019, emerged as a rookie for the final five games last year after Peppers was lost to an injury. Love will have an opportunity to remain a critical starter on defense in 2020 and build on his experience after an impressive display of his versatility and coverage skills last year.
"I just tried to step up to the plate for our team to help us succeed, help guys grow and move forward," Love said. "I think my whole mindset was to stay ready, and it always is. Stay ready, stay aware, and be ready to go."
McKinney's eventual replacement might not even be listed as a safety on the roster right now.
With limited safety depth behind Peppers and Love, the Giants could assign one of their young cornerbacks to take on a role as a third safety.
Seventh-round rookie Chris Williamson was drafted as a nickel cornerback out of Minnesota but worked at safety in training camp.
If Williamson were to make the transition to safety, it wouldn't even be the biggest adjustment he's had to make as a football player.
Williamson was recruited out of high school as a receiver before switching to a boundary cornerback at the University of Florida. Then after transferring to Minnesota in 2018, Williamson made the switch to the slot.
Minnesota defensive backs coach Joe Harasymiak told Giants Country by phone that Williamson is a player that will selflessly adapt to whatever role is needed and has the physical toolset to thrive in the NFL at any position in the secondary.
"He's got good top-end [speed], he's got good weight on him, he's physical, he'll tackle. I think he probably has to improve some of his man coverage skills in the slot just because he hasn't been doing it that long," Harasymiak said.
Montre Hartage played under defensive coordinator Patrick Graham for the Miami Dolphins last season. Hartage was activated towards the end of the 2019 NFL season, and he first appeared in Week 13 against the Eagles.
Hartage only played one game, mostly at free safety, and then was put back on the practice squad until he was called up two weeks later. Hartage played the rest of the season for the Dolphins, as a versatile safety who would drop into the box.
His playing experience in Graham's system, combined with familiar injury circumstances, might ultimately make Hartage a top candidate to take on a defensive role in 2020 as a third safety.
Chandler has already filled a limited role for the Giants in his two seasons since being signed as an undrafted free agent out of Temple in 2018.
Chandler has played in 29 games throughout his two-year NFL career but has yet to make a start.
In college, Chandler started at both cornerback and safety, so he technically possesses a versatile skill set as a defensive back, but doesn't have the best speed by NFL standards.
Andrews, an undrafted rookie, certainly made the most out of a versatile role in two seasons at Mississippi State and might have the diverse skill set to fit the plan for the Giants' defensive backs in 2020.
Landrews started all 13 games for the Bulldogs in 2019 and racked up 84 tackles playing deep in the secondary, near the line of scrimmage, and even caused some trouble in the offensive backfield.
Landrews didn't record a sack last year but forced six total pressures and earned a 71.3 pass-rushing grade from Pro Football Focus. In coverage, Landrews was credited with eight passes defended and one interception.
Veteran safety Nate Ebner was brought over from the Patriots to predominantly fill a special teams role but does boast limited experience on defense.
Ebner played at least 10% of defensive snaps for the Patriots in eight games from 2012-16. Ebner hasn't had much of a defensive role in the last three years. Still, in a thin Giants' defense, it's not impossible to imagine him getting on the field for the Giants defense in what is expected to employ a broad range of secondary alignments.