4. New York Giants
The Giants, of late, haven’t done much of anything right. The defensive line has always been a hallmark of their best teams. And it probably is one of their better position groups heading into 2022. But consider this: Of the 10 men who are currently slated to log time on the line (NY plays a base 3-4, so we are counting edge rushers as defensive ends here, and not as linebackers), six of them are new to the team this season.
Three are journeyman veterans, signed to provide some depth. The other three are rookies. If they get anything out of fifth-round pick DJ Davidson, or UDFA edge rusher Tomon Fox, that would be gravy.
But they desperately need the other rookie, first-round pick Kayvon Thibodeaux, to come up big.
The interior of the Giants line, with Leonard Williams and Dexter Lawrence, is sound. Williams has seemed on the verge of an elite status for several years now, and he just hasn’t been consistent enough to get there. But that duo is just fine.
The Giants simply do not have a consistent pass rush. Azeez Ojulari and Oshane Ximenes have talent but so far, they have been run-of-the-mill performers. Thibodeaux is the Chosen One. He has to transform the defense. When he went down with an ugly looking injury after a low block by former Commander tight end Thad Moss in the pre-season, you could hear the Big Apple groan. Fortunately, he seems to have escaped serious injury. Nonetheless, in true Giant fashion, on the current injury report, roughly half of the defensive line – including Thibodeaux and Williams – are listed as questionable for week 1.
We’ll close this little piece with a cautionary tale about statistics. In 2021, the Giants, despite their defensive line woes, generated 34 sacks. That’s not great, but it’s not terrible either. (It’s two per game for those of you who forgot we now play 17.) And it is more than the Eagles had.
And I just said the Eagles are clearly superior.
If you go a little deeper, you’ll find that in order to get that kind of pressure, the Giants had to blitz far more than Philadelphia. The Eagles blitz less than just about any team in the league. Graham and Cox et.al. have never accumulated huge sack totals, which is why they remain underrated. What they do is generate constant pressure – ALL BY THEMSELVES – without the need of blitzes. They force opposing offenses to throw quick, and they employ a full complement of defenders in coverage to shut down the play.
That’s why the Eagles have the best defensive line in the division. They may not have four No. 1 draft picks across the front like the Commanders (they have two), but they perform better. The Washington Commanders, especially once Chase Young returns, should be closing that gap. As for Dallas and New York, it’s basically a champion v champion match between DeMarcus Lawrence and Kayvon Thibodeaux to determine who comes in third. For now, I’ll bet on the proven Lawrence.