The New York Giants approach their training camp and preseason with a fully fit defense. This unit has previously struggled with injuries, but things are looking promising this time around.
Injury History of Key Players
The Giants experienced the impact of injuries on their performance significantly in 2022. The team had to navigate a large portion of the season without key defenders like Leonard Williams and Azeez Ojulari.
Williams was sidelined due to an MCL sprain and a neck injury, while Ojulari grappled with hamstring and calf issues that severely hampered his contribution. Ojulari, however, arrives at camp with a clean bill of health, indicating potential for a breakthrough season. This expectation follows his disappointing performance since his second-round draft three years ago.
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Ojulari’s Offseason Efforts and Expectations
“Azeez is moving around really well,’’ OLB coach Drew Wilkins said last week, via the NY Post. “He worked really hard in the offseason. We have a really great strength program, really great trainers. He put together a great plan — here’s areas he can attack things differently.
Last year, Ojulari added 10 pounds of muscle mass, possibly affecting his lower body. But he has worked relentlessly on enhancing his stamina and incorporating exercises to lessen the risk of soft tissue injuries.
The Giants have high hopes for Ojulari in 2023. Despite limited game time in the previous season, he managed to register 6.0 sacks and 20 total pressures in just six full regular-season games.
“He did a lot of things really well last year. He had a great training camp. Obviously he had to battle through some things, but when you look at the end-of- the-year stats, we’d love to have him out there a lot more than he was. Really, he had one of the highest sacks per rush in the league. It’s making sure he’s out there and he’s rolling, because when he is, he can be a problem.’’
Dynamic Defensive Pairing on the Horizon?
The defensive pairing of Ojulari and Kayvon Thibodeaux might be a compelling force going forward. Still, the duo’s performance is heavily reliant on maintaining their health. Thibodeaux displayed promising performance in his rookie season, including crucial contributions and formidable pass-rush capabilities.
Defensive coordinator Wink Martindale has tasked Thibodeaux with enhancing his core and lower body strength. The aim is to improve his performance in sealing the edge in the run game and extend his bull-rush abilities.
Should both outside linebackers stay fit, they could potentially reach double-digit sack totals individually. This development would unquestionably hand the Giants a significant advantage on defense.