Blake Martinez knows what you think of him.
He knows he has a reputation for being a slow linebacker who can’t cover and makes most of his tackles way past the line of scrimmage.
“That’s the misconception of me in the public view,” Martinez said on a conference call on Monday, adding that he “totally understood the public perception.” But the newest Giants linebacker, acquired in free agency earlier this month, insisted that his shortcomings had much more to do with the Packers’ defensive schemes than his own limitations.
With the Giants, he’ll get a chance to prove that case.
Martinez said his role with the Packers was to be the “clean-up crew guy.” He described that as allowing other players on the field such as Kenny Clark or Za’Darius Smith to freelance and “do what they wanted to” while he was in charge of covering for their lapses. He was seldom given gap responsibilities and often the only linebacker on the field, he said.
“It was kind of ‘Play off these guys and basically make them right,’” he said. “So [people say] things like ‘You make tackles down the field, you make tackles here, you make tackles there,’ but for the majority of the time there that was what I was called to do. It was just me doing my job.”
As for the coverage, Martinez copped to two big plays on which he made poor decisions last season. The rest, he said, were not his fault and the result of “small communication lapses and misunderstandings” by others.
“Last year we played a lot of match coverage zone, so it looks like we’re in man coverage but technically we have inside help or outside help or are able to pass off,” Martinez said. “You look at it and be like ‘What the heck? Shouldn’t this guy be covering him? Shouldn’t Blake be covering him?’ Those types of things. But overall I think I am able to do whatever I am asked to do. I can cover tight ends, I can cover running backs, I can play in zones, I can do all the things you need to do as an inside linebacker.”
The Giants certainly think he can. They gave Martinez a three-year, $30 million contract.
“Going into this defense, however we play and whatever it ends up being, yeah, I hope I’m able to trigger, hit, fill gaps, and make those types of impact plays,” Martinez said.
In other words, be a modern-day middle linebacker who must have the size to crash the line of scrimmage and the speed to cover players in the secondary.
“In my opinion,” Martinez said, “I think I fit that completely.”