The Giants’ pass-rush rotation could be special in 2024

New York Giants linebacker Kayvon Thibodeaux (5) celebrates a sack with the defense in the first half at MetLife Stadium

The New York Giants have significantly bolstered their roster this offseason, adding key players on both offense and defense. Notable acquisitions include Malik Nabers, the sixth overall draft pick, and star pass-rusher Brian Burns, who joined the team via a trade with the Carolina Panthers — he immediately signed a five-year, $141 million deal.

Brian Burns: A Prime Addition to the Giants’ Defense

Brian Burns, a former first-round pick in 2019, arrives from a struggling Carolina Panthers team. At 26 years old, Burns is entering the prime of his career and is motivated by both financial incentives and the opportunity to compete at a higher level.

Oct 29, 2023; Charlotte, North Carolina, USA; Carolina Panthers linebacker Brian Burns (0) react after a sack in the second quarter at Bank of America Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports
Credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

With a career tally of 49 sacks and 246 total pressures, Burns has proven himself as one of the NFL’s best pass-rushers. Despite some inconsistencies in tackling and run defense, his prowess in pressuring the quarterback is expected to greatly complement fellow pass-rusher Kayvon Thibodeaux on the Giants’ defensive line.

Kayvon Thibodeaux’s Role and Growth

Kayvon Thibodeaux is gearing up for his third NFL season after recording 42 pressures and 13 sacks over 981 snaps last year.

Although Thibodeaux’s raw numbers last season outpaced those of Burns, he required significantly more snaps to achieve these figures (over 170 more). Burns’ efficiency in pass-rushing scenarios will be crucial, as his presence alongside Dexter Lawrence is anticipated to create advantageous matchups for Thibodeaux, enhancing the young linebacker’s effectiveness against opposing offenses.

Challenges and Opportunities for Thibodeaux

Thibodeaux has demonstrated the physical traits and confidence necessary for success but has struggled with consistency. His performance tends to falter against superior offensive lines, as evidenced by his lack of pressures in critical games against teams like Dallas last season — 0 in 82 snaps.

The addition of Burns is expected to mitigate some of these challenges by diversifying the Giants’ pass-rush tactics and providing Thibodeaux with more favorable one-on-one situations.

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Depth and Strategy in the Linebacker Corps

The Giants’ defensive strategy is further strengthened by the depth provided by Azeez Ojulari. Entering his fourth year, Ojulari has shown potential as a dominant force, though injuries have limited his play, with only 424 snaps last season. As Ojulari transitions to a backup role, his presence enhances the team’s flexibility, allowing for more creative play-calling in critical third-down situations and providing reliable coverage should Burns or Thibodeaux be unavailable.

Looking Ahead

With these strategic additions, the Giants possess their deepest defensive line in years. The focus for the front office now shifts to further enhancing the secondary and strengthening the offense. The goal is to construct a well-rounded team capable of keeping the defense off the field and competing effectively in every game.

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