Do the Giants have enough depth on the defensive line?

New York Giants defensive tackle D.J. Davidson (98) blocks a pass by Seattle Seahawks quarterback Geno Smith (7) during the second quarter at MetLife Stadium
Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Giants upgraded their defensive front this offseason, potentially building one of the best starting defensive lines in the NFL. However, does the unit have enough depth to withstand the length of the regular season?

The Giants’ starting defensive line could be elite

Dexter Lawrence and Kayvon Thibodeaux of the Giants sack Sam Howell of the Commanders in the first half. The NY Giants host the Washington Commanders at MetLife Stadium
East Rutherford, NJ October 22, 2023 — Dexter Lawrence and Kayvon Thibodeaux of the Giants sack Sam Howell of the Commanders in the first half. The NY Giants host the Washington Commanders at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, NJ on October 22, 2023. Credit: Chris Pedota, NorthJersey.com / USA TODAY NETWORK

The Giants’ starting defensive line is led by two-time second-team All-Pro defensive tackle Dexter Lawrence. He will be joined this season by newcomer Brian Burns and rejoined by edge rushers Kayvon Thibodeaux and Azeez Ojulari.

The Lawrence-Thibodeaux-Burns trio combined for 24 sacks and 149 pressures last season (PFF):

  • Kayvon Thibodeaux: 11.5 sacks, 44 pressures
  • Brian Burns: 8 sacks, 40 pressures
  • Dexter Lawrence: 4.5 sacks, 65 pressures

After trading for Burns, the Giants have more than enough depth on the edge. However, taking a closer look at the interior of the defensive line exposes a potential weakness in Big Blue’s defense.

The Giants lack depth on the interior of the defensive line

Dec 17, 2023; New Orleans, Louisiana, USA; New York Giants defensive tackle Jordon Riley (95) warms up before the game against the New Orleans Saints at Caesars Superdome. Mandatory Credit: Stephen Lew-USA TODAY Sports
Dec 17, 2023; New Orleans, Louisiana, USA; New York Giants defensive tackle Jordon Riley (95) warms up before the game against the New Orleans Saints at Caesars Superdome. Mandatory Credit: Stephen Lew-USA TODAY Sports

Lawrence will maintain his starting position at nose tackle, but alongside him, there are no clear-cut starters on the interior of the Giants’ defensive line. They do, however, have a rotation of young players who could make an impact if they develop properly.

Jordon Riley is entering his second season after barely seeing any playing time as a rookie in 2023. He appeared in eight games and totaled eight tackles and one tackle for loss, but ultimately saw the field for just 26% of the Giants’ defensive snaps in 2023. He did, however, flash potential during the preseason, and could see a larger role in 2024.

D.J. Davidson is entering his third career season with New York and seemed to be the coaching staff’s favored backup defensive lineman last season. He saw the field for 24% of the team’s defensive snaps, due in large part to injuries keeping him sidelined. However, he did rack up 13 combined tackles and one tackle for loss on the year.

In addition to Davidson and Riley, the Giants have a few more depth players on the interior, including veteran Rakeem Nunez-Roches. They also have a pair of undrafted free-agent rookies who could develop into quality talents — Casey Rogers and Elijah Chatman. Both have a legitimate chance to make the final roster if they play well this offseason.

Despite their top-end talent, the Giants’ lack of depth on the defensive line is something to keep an eye on. If they do not feel comfortable with their depth pieces by the end of training camp, they could look to add more talent through the waiver wire before or during the regular season.

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