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Giants 53-Man Roster: A Closer Look At The Defensive Line

The Giants have cut down their roster to 53 active roster players. Has the defensive line improved since last year? What does the defensive line need to do to make this defense good this year?

The Giants will run a 52-defensive set this year. That means five guys will be on the defensive line this year for the Giants. That includes two outside linebackers and three defensive linemen. Here are the projected starters for this Giants defense:

Overview Of Giants Starters On The Defensive Line For 2022

Kayvon Thibodeaux

Kayvon Thibodeaux will start at weakside linebacker for the Giants. Thibodeaux’s job will mostly be to create pressure against opponents’ offenses. Thibodeaux was selected with the fifth overall pick by the team in this year’s draft. The rookie comes out of the University of Oregon. Thibodeaux had seven sacks, 49 tackles, and three pass deflections in his last year at college before being drafted.

He may miss Week One’s game against the Titans after getting injured in the preseason. Thibodeaux got injured on a nasty cut block from Thaddeus Moss. While he might not be available for the season opener, Thibodeaux is expected to be very good this year. Look for Jihad Ward or Oshane Ximines to take over for Thibodeaux at the weakside spot until he returns.

Leonard Williams

Leonard Williams is the starting right defensive end for the Giants this year. Besides maybe Thibodeaux (depending on how the rookie performs this year), he is the best defensive lineman that the team will have this year. Williams was recently named 97th on the top NFL 100 list. This is Williams’s eighth year in the NFL. He was selected sixth overall by the cross-team rival New York Jets in 2016. While Williams is certainly a solid player for the Giants, some may argue that his contract is overpaid. Williams has a cap number of $26 million this year.

While his contract does expire after this year, it was one of the moves that former General Manager Dave Gettleman made that didn’t allow the new Giants regime to spend in free agency. He acquired Williams in 2020 for a 2020 third-rounder and 2021 fifth-rounder. The team then placed Williams on the franchise tag in the 2020 offseason before signing him to a 63 million dollar deal over three years.

While Williams has been good for the Giants, he hasn’t been worth an average annual value of 21 million dollars per year over the length of this contract.

Dexter Lawerence

Dexter Lawernce is the starting nose tackle for the Giants this year. Lawerence was selected with the 17th pick by the Giants in the 2019 draft. During his three years with the Giants, Lawerence has been pretty good. Lawerence has been a pretty good run-stopper for New York during his short three-year career for the team. He usually has around 24 to 30 solo tackles every year since his rookie year. Additionally, Lawerence has at least 2.5 sacks per year since the beginning of his NFL career. Finally, the young player had three tackles for loss in his rookie year, six tackles for loss in his sophomore season, and five tackles for loss last year.

Lawerence is a very solid nose tackle for the Giants. While he might not have the most eye-popping stats this year, he will be a very solid run-stopper for the defense this year. He had his fifth-year option picked up this offseason and is under contract with the Giants for the next two years.


Nick Williams (really it’s the left inside defensive line position in this 52 system) uncertainty

The Giants have uncertainty at the left end position due to injury. Originally Jihad Ward was going to start at the left inside edge. Now that Thibodeaux will be out to start the year, Ward will need to play that position for at least Week One. When the rookie returns from injury, Ward will be moved to this position. During the preseason, Ward played first snaps reps at this position before Thibodeaux got injured.

Nick Williams is probably the most likely to start at this spot in the meantime. Williams is a nine-year veteran in the NFL. He was drafted in the seventh round by the Steelers in the 2013 draft. After not playing his rookie year, he was waived by the Steelers and played for the Chiefs. After playing for the Chiefs for two years, he had stints in Miami, Chicago, and Detroit. He signed a one-year contract with the Giants this season and can be a playable starter for the defense at this position.

While he might not be very good at the left-end position, he is definitely playable. Another option the Giants have at the left inside end position is Justin Ellis. Ellis is an eight-year veteran in the NFL. He was drafted in the fourth round by the Raiders in 2014. He’s had stints in Oakland, and Baltimore during his 7-year career. Again like Williams, he might not be great for this team but he will be playable at the left inside end position during Thibodeaux’s injury.

Azeez Ojuari

Azeez Ojuari is the Giants’ starter at the right inside linebacker position. Ojuari is one of the better players on the Giants’ defensive line. He was drafted by New York last year in the second round and he had a very solid rookie year. Ojuari had eight sacks and 29 solo tackles. Additionally, he had 49 combined tackles. Finally, he had eight tackles for loss. When Thibodeaux returns from injury, he and Ojuari will form an amazing outside rushing duo.

Look for the outside rushers to be one of the highlights of this defense all year. Ojuari is one of the young bright players for an otherwise uncertain future in New York. He should be able to take a leap in year two with improved teammates from the year before.

While it might be very unlikely and rare, look for Ojuari to drop back into pass coverage this year. The Giants’ defensive coordinator, Wink Martindale loves to use corner blitz. When Martindale uses a corner blitz look for Ojuari to drop back into pass coverage (zone coverage probably no man coverage due to lack of ability), as the Giants might not want to rush six on any given play (and Ojuari is better than Thibodeaux at zone coverage). While this is possible, it is probably unlikely or will happen not many times this year.

Will the Giants’ defensive line be good this year?

The Giants’ defensive line will be very good this year. The five is the highlight of Wink Martindale’s defense. If the Giants are gonna be successful this year, they will need a good pass rush. While the middle linebackers may be more key this year for the Giants (due to their lackluster secondary), the Giants will need their line to play up to their abilities this year otherwise this defense will not be very good this year.

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