ESPN Finds Biggest Strength on New York Giants’ 2022 Roster

Giants Defensive Linemen

New York Giants The New York Giants' biggest strength is their defensive front.

As the New York Giants rebuild their roster, some positional groups look stronger on paper than others. The defensive backfield, for example, was recently named one one of the “10 biggest roster holes” by NFL.com.

But what about the strongest aspect of the Giants’ roster?

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Ben Linsey of ESPN recently ranked all 32 NFL rosters and identified the biggest strength, weakness and X-factor for each one. The Giants’ roster ranked 26th in the NFL, but the biggest strength is the defensive front.

Here’s what Linsey wrote about the unit:

It’s not surprising to see the former Bills’ brain trust invest in the defensive line in its first draft with the Giants, given how the Bills have attacked the position over the past few years. The Kayvon Thibodeaux addition to a defensive front that already had Leonard Williams, Dexter Lawrence and 2021 draft pick Azeez Ojulari gives New York a nice collection of talent that can defend the run and get after opposing quarterbacks. Thibodeaux’s 23% pass rush win rate ranked ninth among FBS edge rushers with at least 250 pass-rushing snaps in 2021.

The Giants ranked in the bottom half of the NFL in both total defense (21st) and scoring defense (23rd) last season. Drafting outside linebacker Kayvon Thibodeaux with the fifth-overall pick should help the unit climb up those rankings in 2022.

But as Linsey mentioned in his write-up, the Giants have other big names in the defensive front beyond Thibodeaux. Veteran defensive lineman Leonard Williams is expected to be a leader of the unit, considering he’s the highest-paid player on the team with a salary cap hit of $27.3 million in 2022 (according to Spotrac). Former first-round pick Dexter Lawrence also projects to be a major peg up front, as the Giants decided to exercise the fifth-year option in his rookie contract earlier this offseason.

Outside linebacker Azeez Ojulari is an underrated contributor who led the team with 8.0 sacks last season, while time-tested veterans Justin Ellis and Jihad Ward were brought in this offseason to provide the unit with valuable leadership.

Overall, the unit features a nice mixture of potential top-end talent and quality depth.


How Bad is the Giants’ Defensive Backfield?

ESPN followed NFL.com’s lead and identified the Giants’ defensive backfield as the team’s biggest weakness, but is the unit really as bad as they say it is?

Michael Renner of Pro Football Focus recently ranked all 32 NFL secondaries, and he categorized the Giants as one of the league’s “Ascending Units” at No. 20.

Here’s what Renner wrote about New York’s defensive backfield:

The Giants have invested plenty of resources into their secondary on Days 2 and 3 of the draft in recent years, and it shows in their depth. This ranking could look a lot different at the year’s end if Xavier McKinney takes a similar leap forward in 2022 as he did in 2021. He went from a 69.2 coverage grade on limited snaps as a rookie to a 78.4 coverage grade last season. Bet on him becoming a top-10 safety sooner rather than later.

Xavier McKinney does have a lot of potential at safety, but the Giants are trying to replace two veteran leaders at that position: Jabrill Peppers (New England Patriots) and Logan Ryan (Tampa Bay Buccaneers). That’s not going to be easy. The cornerback position is also littered with question marks, but Renner seems rather confident the Giants can answer those.


Kadarius Toney is the X-Factor on the Roster

ESPN and most Giants fans agree: Wide receiver Kadarius Toney is a major X-factor this season.

“When he was on the field as a rookie last season, Toney looked like the dynamic playmaker the Giants drafted him in the first round to be,” Linsey wrote for ESPN. “The issue seems to be him staying on the field.”

With Giants general manager Joe Schoen and head coach Brian Daboll inheriting Toney from the previous regime, the second-round selection of Wan’Dale Robinson may have been a move designed to put some pressure on Toney in Year 2.

 

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