Xavier McKinney of the Giants celebrates after defeating the Baltimore Ravens...

Xavier McKinney of the Giants celebrates after defeating the Baltimore Ravens at MetLife Stadium on Oct. 16, 2022. Credit: Jim McIsaac

The Giants have spent the last month and a half without their best defensive player on the field, and it shows.

Since safety Xavier McKinney was sidelined by hand fractures suffered in an ATV accident during the bye week, the Giants are 1-3-1. And after allowing 19.6 points per game in the first eight weeks of the season, they have given up 28.6 in these last five, including the 48 scored by the Eagles on Sunday.

McKinney plans on returning and playing again this season. For him to play in meaningful games, though, he knows he’d best hurry. And this week’s game against Washington — essentially a playoff game to get in the playoffs — would be a very good time for him to be back on the field.

“I’m trying my best,” he said in the locker room on Sunday. “Obviously, I’m not just sitting here [grumbling]. I’m trying. I got to listen to the docs. If I could make my own decision, I would have been out there. I would have been out there the day after surgery . . . I’m taking their lead on it, and whenever they think it’s safe for me to go out and play, that’s what I’ll do.”

He had the pins removed from the injured hand last week and has talked about playing with a club, as those with hand injuries often do, but Brian Daboll and the Giants haven’t committed to that.

“I played with a club before in college in a couple practices, so I know what it feels like,” McKinney said. “I think I can play in a club for sure. Obviously, it’s harder, but I don’t mind it. It’ll be harder for sure because you can’t really catch the ball. But you can always body-catch, too. That’s what a lot of people do anyways.”

McKinney’s absence has been glaringly obvious in the last two losses in particular. Against Washington, there were coverage breakdowns and missed tackles that allowed the Commanders to come back and play the Giants to a tie. Against the Eagles, there were two early touchdown passes that he might have been able to help prevent.

“It’ll be good,” defensive lineman and fellow captain Dexter Lawrence said of McKinney’s pending return to the field. “He’s been doing good leading while he’s been out, but to have him on the field, he brings another presence and another great player. It’ll be exciting.”

If the Giants can get cornerback Adoree’ Jackson back in time for the Washington game, too, that would be even better for a secondary that has been scuffling with a bare-bones depth chart. Getting McKinney and Jackson back on the field in time for a postseason push would help absolve two of the worst decisions made by members of the Giants since they started the season 7-2: McKinney hopping on that ATV and Daboll using his top cornerback as a punt returner. Jackson, who suffered an MCL sprain on a punt return, was on the field with the team at practices last week.

McKinney said from his sideline view, he thinks the Giants can overcome their recent woes.

“I think it’s a lot of little things right now,” he said. “We’ll get it figured out. This last month we have to be better, have better communication with each other. But we’ll figure it out. We have a resilient defense, a lot of good players on our defense.”

They’ll have one more when he is back on the field.

“It’s still [terrible] to not be able to go out there and help the team as far as playing-wise, to go out and execute and win games,” he said. “It’s tough to be out there [on the side] and watching. That’s how it’s been every Sunday for however many weeks it has been. Every game that I can’t play is frustrating.”

McKinney said last week that the next step is to get a CT scan to gauge how well the bones in his fingers are healing. He wasn’t sure when that would happen. Perhaps this week.

“I think we have the best training staff and docs,” he said Sunday. “I’m just taking their lead on it, being able to listen to them. We’re taking it one step at a time. Obviously, we don’t want to rush anything.”

With the season coming to a head on Sunday in Washington, though, the clock on McKinney’s return certainly is ticking louder than it has been.

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