A look at the Giants’ new run-stopping unit

New York Giants
Sep 14, 2020; East Rutherford, New Jersey, USA; Pittsburgh Steelers running back James Conner (30) fights for yards as New York Giants defensive end Leonard Williams (99) tackles with inside linebacker Blake Martinez (54) during the first half at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Giants have bolstered their front seven this offseason after struggling to defend the run throughout the 2022 season. The Giants surrendered 144.2 rushing yards per game last season, ranking 27th in the NFL. With some familiar faces and new additions, defensive coordinator Wink Martindale can feel far more confident in his new run-stopping unit entering 2023.

The Giants’ new-and-improved run defense

The Giants’ defense possessed two of the top defensive linemen in the NFL last season, despite the team’s inability to stop the run. Dexter Lawrence and Leonard Williams combine to create one of the best DT duos in the league. However, outside of Lawrence and Williams, New York’s front line lacked run-stopping talent.

Wink Martindale runs an aggressive 3-4 defensive system that has typically excelled in stopping the run. In this system, New York needs three quality down linemen. Lawrence and Williams made up two-thirds of the front line, however, a rotation of replacement-level starters in Justin Ellis and Henry Mondeaux left the Giants week at their DT spot. New York’s recent acquisitions of DTs A’Shawn Robinson and Rakeem Nunez-Roches should solve this issue.

In addition to lacking depth on the defensive line, the Giants also possessed arguably the worst linebacker corps in the NFL in 2022. New York opened the season with Tae Crowder and Austin Calitro as their two starting inside linebackers. Neither player made it through the end of the regular season still on the roster.

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By season’s end, the Giants were starting the likes of rookie Micah McFadden and veterans Jaylon Smith and Jarad Davis at the off-ball linebacker spots. New York’s lack of talent in their linebacker corps was put on full display during the team’s postseason defeat to the division-rival Philadelphia Eagles.

After surrendering 268 rushing yards to the Eagles in the Divisional Round, Giants GM Joe Schoen made it a priority to add run-stopping talent this offseason. His biggest attempt to do so came in the way of free agency signing Bobby Okereke. The 26-year-old LB totaled 151 combined tackles for the Colts last season before signing a four-year, $40 million deal with the Giants as their new LB1.

New York also extended veteran OLB Jihad Ward this offseason. Ward is a capable run-defender who provided Martindale with solid depth on the edge last year.

A couple of big signings in free agency have put the Giants’ run defense in a much better spot entering this weekend’s 2023 NFL Draft. With some added depth in the draft, New York’s run-stopping unit should be much improved in 2023.