Giants could have one of the best defensive fronts in the NFL following Brian Burns trade

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
Credit: Chris Pedota, / USA TODAY NETWORK

The New York Giants changed the landscape of the NFL this week when they pulled off a blockbuster trade to acquire pass-rusher Brian Burns from the Carolina Panthers. Burns will now join a Giants’ defensive front that is quickly turning into one of the best the league has to offer.

The Giants finally have depth on the edge

Adding depth on the edge was expected to be a priority for the Giants’ front office entering this offseason — but no one was expecting them to make such a splash like they did for Burns. Now, Burns will step in and give New York a tantalizing pass-rushing duo with him and fellow speed-rusher Kayvon Thibodeaux.

Burns is a two-time Pro Bowler and is widely considered to be one of the best young pass rushers in the NFL. Burns led the Panthers in overall pressures each season since 2020 and totaled 42 pressures in 2023 per Next Gen Stats. He’s added up 28 sacks,157 QB pressures, and 33 QB hits since 2021. In 2023, Burns finished with eight sacks, 16 tackles for loss, and 18 combined tackles.

The Giants need Thibodeaux to play with more consistency in 2024, but the 23-year-old has flashed immense potential since he was drafted in 2022. He totaled a career-high 11.5 sacks in 2023 and is in line to take a big step forward next season now that he will be playing alongside Burns. Having Burns on the opposite side of the line should take pressure off of Thibodeaux’s shoulders and afford him more one-on-one pass-rushing opportunities.

With Burns and Thibodeaux combining to create a fierce edge duo, fourth-year man Azeez Ojulari will now move into a rotational role. Considering how much potential he flashed during the first two seasons of his career, having Ojulari as the third-man-up sounds like a luxury for the Giants.

Ojulari totaled 13.5 sacks across 24 games in the first two seasons of his career. Injuries have held him back since, but a lessened role might lead to a healthier, more productive version of Ojulari in 2024.

The Giants have talent at the linebacker position

In addition to the talent the Giants’ outside linebackers/edge rushers will provide in the pass-rushing department, they also have a pair of high-quality off-ball linebackers manning the middle of their defense.

Bobby Okereke broke out in 2023, his first season with Big Blue. Okereke played 100% of the Giants’ defensive snaps last season, filling the stat sheet with 149 combined tackles, 11 tackles for loss, 2.5 sacks, four forced fumbles, 10 pass defenses, and two interceptions.

Okereke’s emergence paved the way for fellow linebacker Micah McFadden to experience a breakout of his own. In the second season of his career, McFadden set new career highs with 101 combined tackles, 12 tackles for loss, five pass defenses, and one interception.

With Okereke and McFadden both still under contract for at least the next two seasons, the Giants can feel confident that the middle of their defense is in good hands for the foreseeable future.

Dexter Lawrence headlines the Giants’ defensive interior

And of course, leading the Giants’ defensive front is Dexter Lawrence. The two-time Pro Bowler has blossomed into one of the best defensive players in the NFL. He headlines the Giants’ defense as their true superstar.

Lawrence was dominant once again in 2023, being selected to the AP All-Pro Second Team for the second consecutive year. According to Pro Football Focus, Lawrence led all interior defenders in quarterback pressures (84) and pass-rush win rate (22.3%). He finished the season with 54 combined tackles, seven tackles for loss, and 4.5 sacks.

The Giants’ defense is undergoing changes this offseason following the hiring of new defensive coordinator Shane Bowen. With such an influx of new talent to the front seven, Bowen should have no problem applying pressure to opposing teams’ quarterbacks.

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