There was only one season together in Green Bay but it was enough to convince Blake Martinez his linebackers coach, Patrick Graham, was something special.
There are many factors that go into a player signing with a new team and there is no doubt Graham’s presence as the Giants’ new defensive coordinator was a major selling point for Martinez.
“What made me so excited to work with him this year and the following years is how smart he is,” Martinez said Monday. “I think he’s probably the smartest coach I’ve ever been around. And then just the preparation he puts in every week, his intensity, just how much he cares about the game of football. It just allowed me to go in every Sunday or Monday or whatever, Thursday game just fully prepared and I never felt like I didn’t know what play was going to happen next.”
Martinez, 26, started all 48 regular-season games for the Packers the past three years and his total tackle numbers amassed — 144, 144 and 155 — are eye-catching and also need to be put in perspective. Yes, he is always around the ball, but where he put down the ball-carrier in relation to the line of scrimmage is key to viewing Martinez as a compiler or something much more.
The Giants studied and came to the conclusion the defensive scheme in Green Bay was not conducive to Martinez making impactful plays. Martinez was “about 50-50 of a surprise and not a surprise” when the Packers made him an offer that was easy to refuse.
“The way they value the inside linebacker position, especially in that defense, it wasn’t as valued as other places I guess, in my opinion,” he said.
Graham was there in 2018, but the Packers ran coordinator Mike Pettine’s defense. Martinez knows all about the criticism and has heard all the accounts of the tackles he makes 6 or 7 yards across the line of scrimmage. He and the Giants share a vision that the best is yet to come for him.
“That’s been one, in my opinion, misconception of me to I guess the public view,” Martinez said. “The way we ran the defense at least the last two years at the Packers in coach Pettine’s defense it’s kind of, I put it as, ‘The cleanup-crew guy.’ ”
The way the Packers ran their defense, Martinez did not have any gap responsibilities. The stars of the unit were supposed to be the big guys up-front — Preston Smith, Za’Darius Smith, Kenny Clark or Dean Lowry. Martinez was often the only inside linebacker on the field.
“It was just kind of, ‘Hey, play off Kenny, play off Za’Darius, play off Preston, play off Dean, play off these guys and basically make them right,” Martinez said. “They were kind of able to do whatever they wanted to do. And then I would go make the plays depending on that.
“So I know there was things like, ‘You make tackles down the field, you didn’t make tackles here, you make tackles there.’ But for the majority of the time there that’s what I was called to do so it was just me doing my job in that sense. Going into this season once I learn the scheme, whatever it ends up being yeah, I hope I’m able to trigger it, hit solo gaps do those type of things and make impact plays.”