Xavier McKinney

McKinney embracing leadership role in secondary

Xavier McKinney couldn’t have imagined it 12 months ago.

Not entering a season with vets like James Bradberry, Logan Ryan and Jabrill Peppers alongside him.

But there he was Thursday, at just 22 years old, as one of the “old guys” in the room.

“We definitely miss those guys,” McKinney said of Bradberry, who signed with the Eagles, and Ryan, who is now in Tampa. “But the guys we have in the locker room are great.”

For the 2022 campaign, he and Corner Adoree Jackson will be counted on to set the tone in a Giants secondary that was a strong point in 2021.

And that’s just fine with McKinney.

If there’s pressure, it’s the expectations he has for himself, he told media.

“(Just) gotta take it 10 times forward,” he said.

“That’s what I’m trying to do. Trying to make sure whatever I need to do to help this team win and help us play great defense — that’s what I’m willing to do and that’s what I’m going to do.”

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McKinney said he attacked the offseason both in the weight toom and the film room.

As a third year pro, he’s digesting practice and game tape differently now — at different paces looking for areas where he can improve.

He’s confident that will happen, espescially under veteran Defensive Coach Wink Martindale’s “play fast” scheme.

“There’s so much aggression. It gives us the freedom to just go out and play,” McKinney said.

Their mindset:  “We want (the opponent) to make a mistake off of what we do.”

McKinney made that mentality his calling card in 2021.

He recorded an interception for every nine targets last year, finishing with five picks in all and a Pro Football Focus grade of 75.4.

Only the Bills’ Jordan Poyer and Seattle’s Quandre Diggs posted better rates, advanced stats show.

McKinney’s main objective this spring is building chemistry on the back end — “a bond” among safeties and corners — that will allow them to play with speed and fury as a cohesive unit, he said.

It’s a new system. But working under longtime secondary coach Jerome Henderson will make that challenge easier, he said.

“Keeping our same coach and keeping that coach I had my rookie year is great because we already had that chemistry with each other. It is easier to be able to just listen to him and be able to soak in the information that he gives us.”