Analyzing the Giants’ edge-rushing corps ahead of Week 1

new york giants, kayvon thibodeaux
Dec 4, 2022; East Rutherford, New Jersey, USA; New York Giants defensive end Kayvon Thibodeaux (5) celebrates a sack during overtime against the Washington Commanders at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

Not too long ago, the woes of the New York Giants‘ defense could be primarily attributed to the team’s lackluster pass rush. Over the past couple of seasons, that weakness was turned into a strength.

With second-year EDGE Kayvon Thibodeaux holding down one side and Azeez Ojulari opposite from him, the outside of the line is now as opposing as what the Giants have in store up the middle. However, the problem has not been solved completely, as a lack of depth and experience may cause New York’s edge-rushing woes to continue.

The importance of Thibodeaux and Ojulari on the Giants’ defense

Last season, Ojulari missed 10 games with injuries while Thibedeaux missed three games with injuries, leaving the edge as a weaker unit once again. Jihad Ward and Oshane Ximines were left to fill in.

Compared to Ojulari’s Pro Football Focus pass-rush grade (64.0) and Thibodeaux’s (67.9), there was a significant drop off to Ward’s (50.2) and Ximines (56.0). Additionally, in 549 total pass rush snaps, Thibs and Azeez combined for 59 pressures, 10 sacks, and 4 forced fumbles. Inversely, in 593 total pass rush snaps, Ward and Ximines combined only for 38 pressures, 6 sacks, and 2 forced fumbles.

In correlation with the playing time of these two was the performance of All-Pro DT Dexter Lawrence. In Lawrence’s six highest-graded games (Weeks 4, 6, 10, 12, 15, 16), Thibodeaux saw significant playing time in all six games. Ojulari played significant time in three of these games.

Having two lanky, athletic, downfield rushers, is one of the factors that allow Lawrence to receive fewer double-teams and dominate the inside of the line. Not only do Thibodeaux and Ojulari form a solid duo on the edges, but they make the entire defensive line more dominant as a whole.

Health is the variable, though. The question remains if the two will be available year-round, or if New York will have to rely on backups and put more strain on the entire defense. 

Adding depth to the unit with Boogie Basham

In another move correlating with the Bills, general manager Joe Schoen sent a 2025 sixth-round pick in exchange for Boogie Basham and a 2025 seventh-round pick; a low-risk, high-reward trade for the Giants.

Realistically, this move will not make a significant impact. However, Basham may have a huge reserve role in this EDGE group. Not only would he bring in the highest pass-rushing grade from last season (73.3), but he would also be another potential breakout candidate, having been drafted in the second round of the 2021 draft. With a floor of being a low-volume, high-impact substitute player, and the potential breakout player in case of an injury, it is safe to say that Joe Schoen has yet again made another great move.

Last year in weeks 1-3, with 40 pass-rushing snaps, Basham logged a pass-rush grade of 88.3 over that span and an additional 91 grade in the divisional playoffs. Those numbers are the very definition of low-volume, high-impact, and although it may not be there every week, having that wild joker in your back pocket is always a positive.

If Thibodeaux or Ojulari go down with an injury, the Giants can trust Basham to start and not only hold his own, but he could even become an integral piece of this defense.

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