Wink Martindale’s empowering Giants’ defensive players

Jerome Henderson was talking the other day about the superlative summer cornerback Darnay Holmes has enjoyed and unsurprisingly gave credit to the young player for his development. Henderson, the Giants’ defensive backs coach, then recognized someone else for helping Holmes get the best out of himself. 

“I think Wink has also empowered him to be him,’’ Henderson said. 

It is a sentiment often used around the Giants since Wink Martindale came on the scene. He has already made a deep impression as the new defensive coordinator. The outward appearance and persona of the 59-year-old is gruff and gritty — head coach Brian Daboll often jokes about Martindale’s decidedly casual attire — but there is growing evidence that the mastermind of what will be one of the NFL’s most aggressive defenses is capable of instilling uncommon confidence in his players. 

“Absolutely,’’ Henderson said. “They’re excited. Wink has that special ability to make everybody feel in the room that they’re empowered, go play.’’ 

It is intriguing that Patriots coach Bill Belichick, after Thursday night’s 23-21 preseason loss, intimated that the Giants — Martindale — brought undue pressure on rookie quarterback Bailey Zappe, considering this was the first game, and offenses and defenses are usually fairly bland. On the flip-side, Martindale felt his unit in this opener was tame, compared with what he plans to unleash in the regular season. After all, the Ravens in 2018, 2019 and 2020 were first in the league in blitz percentage with Martindale calling the shots. With the Ravens decimated by injuries in 2021, Martindale scaled back, somewhat — the Ravens were sixth in the league in blitz percentage. 

Wink Martindale
Wink Martindale has empowered the Giants’ defensive players.

Rookie Kayvon Thibodeaux, second-year Azeez Ojulari (once he returns from a strained hamstring) and defensive lineman Leonard Williams figure to be the team’s top pass-rushers. But wait, there’s more. Martindale has this funky conviction that anyone and everyone he suits up for the game can and will get the opposing quarterback. You get a jersey, you get to hunt for a sack. 

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