Giants rank shockingly low in PFF’s 2024 defensive line rankings

New York Giants defensive tackle Dexter Lawrence II (97) looks on before the game against the Green Bay Packers at MetLife Stadium
Credit: Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Giants’ defensive line is expected to be one of the team’s top strengths this upcoming season. They made a blockbuster move to bring in pass-rusher Brian Burns this offseason, adding to what was already an impressive defensive line grouping.

However, not everyone is completely confident in the Giants’ defensive line entering this season. Pro Football Focus seems to have a more pessimistic view of the unit, ranking them near the middle of the pack in a recent ranking of all 32 defensive lines in the NFL.

Giants’ defensive line ranks No. 18 in PFF’s rankings

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 Giants’ defensive line came in at just No. 18 overall on PFF’s ranking of the top defensive lines in the league. This is a much lower ranking than fans would have anticipated. The group has top-10 aspirations for the season after adding Burns to the fold alongside an elite defensive tackle in Dexter Lawrence and a rising star in Kayvon Thibodeaux.

PFF’s Sam Monson recognized the potential for the defensive line to break out, but ultimately feels like the unit leaves a little bit more to be desired:

“Dexter Lawrence is a unique player, winning at a greater rate and with far more volume than any other nose tackle in the game when rushing the passer. Adding Brian Burns in the offseason gives the Giants a much better threat on the edge, and now the team needs Kayvon Thibodeaux to take a step forward. Though he got into double-digit sacks in Year 2, he had just 43 quarterback pressures from 520 pass-rushing snaps and his PFF pass-rushing grade declined from his rookie season.”

Sam Monson of Pro Football Focus

The Giants’ defensive line should easily exceed PFF’s expectations this season

Lawrence-Burns-Thibodeaux looks like an incredible pass-rushing trio on paper. Although Monson is right to point out Thibodeaux’s lack of consistency in 2023, it is also worth recognizing that he was playing within a Wink Martindale defensive scheme that prefers to have its blitzing defensive backs generate the majority of its pressure.

Thibodeaux was asked to drop back into coverage many times last season and was often rushing to create lanes for blitzers, rather than to pressure the quarterback himself. Despite this, he still put up 11.5 sacks, making him the first pass-rusher to ever reach double digits in the category under Martindale. He should see an increase in production this season playing in a more simplified Shane Bowen defensive scheme.

Burns, meanwhile, is a star. He 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. Having him opposite Thibodeaux should afford each rusher more one-on-one opportunities, greatly increasing the production from both players.

Lawrence is expected to continue his reign of dominance. He’s been named a second-team All-Pro in each of the last two seasons but will surely push for a first-team selection this season. 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.

If this trio of pass-rushers stays healthy, combined with some solid depth in Azeez Ojulari, there is little standing in the way of the Giants from creating a top-10 defensive line in football.

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