The Giants spent the summer grooming Tae Crowder, Reggie Ragland and Carter Coughlin for the job of playing next to Blake Martinez. Now they’ll be asked to play in place of Martinez.
The inside linebacker, every-down defensive signal-caller and one of the league’s leading tacklers for the past four years suffered a torn ACL early in Sunday’s loss to the Falcons and will miss the rest of the season recovering from the injury. Martinez acknowledged the official diagnosis on social media Monday morning after an MRI confirmed the suspicions of the team’s medical staff who helped the player off the field following the non-contact knee buckle on the opening drive of the game.
"Success is to be measured not so much by the position that one has reached in life as by the obstacles which he has overcome," Martinez wrote on Instagram. "Comeback starts now!"
It’s the second week in a row the Giants lost not just a captain but the most consistent player and the on-field orchestrator of a unit. In Week 2 offensive lineman Nick Gates suffered a fractured lower left leg that required multiple surgeries. The Giants are hopeful Gates can resume his career at some point, but Joe Judge said last week he was bracing for the possibility that it would be career-ending.
As for Martinez, he crumbled to the turf while closing in on a tackle against Cordarrelle Patterson on the fifth play of the game. Martinez was left lying face down on the turf in visible pain and eventually helped off the field by trainers.
Crowder, a second-year player who was the last player selected in the 2020 draft and had been starting next to Martinez, took over the play-calling in the defensive huddle and finished the game with a team-leading 11 tackles. He played all but one defensive snap in the game.
Ragland, a sixth-year veteran from Alabama, played the majority of the reps next to Crowder. The 252-pounder is seen as a solid run defender but lacks the versatility and sideline-to-sideline range Martinez brought the Giants. Coughlin is a second-year player who is just learning the position, having been moved inside from an outside edge rusher role in his first NFL season. He played just five snaps in Sunday’s game.
The Giants could also get creative in replacing Martinez. Safety Jabrill Peppers has been playing a linebacker-type role on the defense and with the team trying to get all three of their starting safeties on the field — Peppers, Xavier McKinney and Logan Ryan— they might reconfigure their scheme to allow for the fifth-year player to remain stationed closer to the line of scrimmage. As for the play-calling, the Giants had Ryan handle that job when Martinez had to step out of a game last year with a lower back injury, one of the rare times he has been off the field in his tenure with the team.