Wink Martindale: LB Jaylon Smith could help the Giants, and soon

the New York Giants let veteran inside linebacker Blake Martinez walk away just before the 2022 NFL season begins. They did that despite losing rookie sixth-round pick Darrian Beavers, who appeared to be their potential heir at MIKE’s linebacker job, to a torn ACL.

The Giants have mixed and matched at inside linebacker through the first three games. Tae Crowder has played 177 snaps (94.65 percent), but the No. 2 spot at inside linebacker has been changing. Austin Calitro has played 64 snaps (33.16 percent), Micah McFadden has played 48 snaps (25.67 percent) and the Giants have often lined up with an extra defensive back and only one true inside linebacker.

Defensive coordinator Wink Martindale said Thursday that Jaylon Smith, the veteran inside linebacker who signed with the practice squad last week, could fit into that picture sooner rather than later.

“Sure,” Martindale said when asked if he could be on the field Sunday against the chicago bears. “We’re going to play the best guy that we think is going to be available for us on Sunday.”

Smith, selected in the second round in 2016 by the dallas cowboys, played four games for the Giants at the end of last season. He wasn’t re-signed in the offseason and was out of the league until the Giants added him to their practice squad.

Martindale said the 245-pound Smith can “run and punch, take down.”

“He’s a little bit bigger than some of the guys we’ve had other than Tae,” Martindale said. “So as long as they can run, because you know what I already told you, if you have a slow Mike, you have a slow defense. I think eventually at some point we’ll feed it there.”

Here are some other takeaways from Martindale’s Thursday media availability.

Honoring Aaron Judge

The veteran defensive coordinator opened his news conference by saying it was “amazing” to see Aaron Judge from the New York Yankees tie Roger Maris’ American League record of 61 home runs on Wednesday night.

On defense against the run

The Giants have allowed 146 and 176 rushing yards over the past two weeks. the carolina panthers (23 attempts, 146 yards) averaged 6.3 yards per rush in Week 2. The Dallas Cowboys (30 attempts, 176 yards) averaged 5.9 yards per rush in Week 3.

Martindale said it’s the “little things” that hurt run defense.

“I wish I could answer with just one answer, but there are little things here and there that a guy sees differently. We talk all the time about having a defensive growth mindset. They are little things,” he said. “Because it’s still a new package and everyone is out there, there are different guys that have been playing in different places and are learning new things that someone else who was playing before already knew what was going on and what to look for. So it’s just one of those things that we know we’re going to appreciate and respect the process of building this defense and we’re going to have good results.”

The Bears arrive at MetLife Stadium on Sunday with a ground-and-pound offense. The Bears have completed just 23 of 45 passing attempts in three games, averaging just 78.3 yards per game. By contrast, Chicago ranks second in the league in rushing. The Bears have a three-headed rushing attack from Khalil Herbert (33 carries, 240 yards, 7.3 yards per carry), David Montgomery (35 carries, 159 yards, 4.5 yards per carry) and quarterback Justin Fields (27 carries, 95 yards, 3.5 yards per carry).

The Bears are second in the league after the cleveland browns with five runs of 20 or more yards.

“They are managing the football, trying to control the clock and playing well on defense. The most important thing is that I don’t want to say you eliminate racing, but you better limit the big races, the explosive races, “said Martindale. “So that’s what we’re going to focus on because there were a lot of runs Monday night where guys were dropping forward for four and five yards. We have to improve the pushback up front and play as a unit, all 11, and make sure we start moving stacks back that way.”

Martindale said the Bears remind him of the The Baltimore Ravenswhere he previously worked as a defensive coordinator when quarterback Lamar Jackson first came to the NFL.

“When we got back to Baltimore and Lamar first came in, if you remember, it was a similar type of offense that challenges you in a different way,” Martindale said. “Like I said, it’s just complementary football that they believe in. That’s his winning formula right now.”

Kayvon Thibodeaux and Azeez Ojulari

The two forward defenders made their debuts Monday night, and Martindale said “there’s nowhere to go but with those two.”

Ojulari received two holding penalties, and Martindale said that was an indication to him that the second-year player was “doing the right thing.” He said Thibodeaux “is going to keep getting better.”

When it was mentioned to Martindale that Thibodeaux has quite a bit of “swagger,” the defensive coordinator had an interesting response:

“I also.

“I think Kayvon is Kayvon. I think that’s one of the reasons why I love him because he’s a confident young man, he has some ambition and he has goals and he’s going to go after them. He would take 11 of guys like that. You better stay humble in this game, period, win or lose because that’s the way this league is. As soon as you lose your humility, he will appear and slap you on the head, the league will. Then I do not know. We didn’t have that conversation, so I don’t know. It doesn’t look like he’s walking with his lip out. I only expect great things from him.”

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