Giants could have an elite defensive line in 2023

kayvon thibodeaux, new york giants, brian daboll
New York Giants defensive end Kayvon Thibodeaux (5) and head coach Brian Daboll shake hands before the Giants take on the Dallas Cowboys at MetLife Stadium on Monday, Sept. 26, 2022. Nfl Ny Giants Vs Dallas Cowboys Cowboys At Giants

The New York Giants could potentially possess one of the best defensive lines in football this upcoming season. On paper, their unit is brimming with talent and potential, although reliability has been a concern in recent history.

Having fortified the trenches with several formidable run-stopping defensive tackles, such as Rakeem Nunez-Roches and A’Shawn Robinson, Big Blue is expected to have a much stronger group compared to their 2022 unit.

Halting the run renders opposing offenses one-dimensional, which is Wink Martindale’s primary strategy. Last year, General Manager Joe Schoen did not fully grasp the requirements of Martindale’s defense, but with ample funds and draft capital at his disposal, the Giants managed to make significant improvements in the trenches.

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Giants’ projected starting defensive line:

OLB: Kayvon Thibodeaux

Let’s begin with star pass rusher Kayvon Thibodeaux, who enjoyed a successful rookie season, playing a total of 859 snaps. He accumulated 45 tackles with 10 assists, registering a 6.8% missed tackle rate, 45 total pressures, and four sacks.

Although Thibodeaux’s sack production was not outstanding, he did excel in the fourth quarter and contributed several impactful moments. Fans had dubbed him the “closer” towards the end of the season, and the Giants are hopeful he will make significant strides in his sophomore year.

DE: Leonard Williams

In 2022, Leonard Williams experienced his first injury-plagued campaign. He played a career-low 723 snaps but still managed to achieve 42 pressures with four sacks and 24 hurries. His 11.5% missed tackle rate was his worst since 2018, but his impact should not be underestimated.

It is anticipated that Williams will either accept a pay cut or restructure his contract in the coming weeks. However, there is no doubt that he is a vital component in the trenches for Big Blue. If Williams performs to his potential and displays his veteran presence, he will maintain an essential partnership with Dexter Lawrence.

DT: Dexter Lawrence

Had the Giants awarded their own MVP in 2022, Lawrence would have won it. After recently signing a substantial four-year, $90 million extension, the team has secured his services for the next five seasons.

Last year, Lawrence recorded 70 total pressures with nine sacks over 977 snaps. He was unquestionably the team’s best defensive player, and the Giants are optimistic he will continue to develop and capitalize on his remarkable athletic abilities. It is extraordinary for a man of 6’4″ and 342 pounds to move as he does.

OLB: Azeez Ojulari

Azeez Ojulari, who added 10 pounds of muscle mass last offseason, struggled to maintain his health. The former Georgia Bulldog is an exceptional pass rusher, and at just 22 years old, his best days are certainly ahead of him.

If Ojulari can overcome his unreliability, he will play a crucial role in the Giants’ future success. He notched six sacks and 20 total pressures in only 252 snaps last year. Extrapolating that success over 800 snaps, Azeez would have produced nearly 16 sacks with 63 pressures. He demonstrated elite performance in short bursts, but the Giants need him consistently and cannot afford to keep compensating for his absence each season.