The Giants‘ defense has a ton of potential entering its second season under coordinator Wink Martindale’s watch. But there are also various question marks that loom large.
Here is the good and bad news at each position group for Martindale’s unit entering 2023.
Good news. Starters Dexter Lawrence and Leonard Williams were on the field for 82% and 75%, respectively, of the team’s defensive snaps last year. Those marks are way too high. Lawrence and Williams are great assets on the defensive line but the Giants would’ve benefited from keeping them fresh to maximize their production.
So it’s great general manager Joe Schoen prioritized the defensive line depth in the offseason. The Giants will enter training camp with the two aforementioned names plus free agent pickups A’Shawn Robinson and Rakeem Nunez-Roches. 2022 draftee D.J. Davidson, returning from an ACL tear, and rookie seventh-rounder Jordon Riley are also in the mix.
Bad news. The Giants have yet to address Williams’ monstrous 2023 cap hit. The veteran has just one year remaining on a three-year extension signed in 2021, with a $32.26 million cap hit that’s the third-highest in the league among all positions.
The Giants could have Williams take a pay cut right before the start of the season or extend him to lessen the financial blow. But the former could cause tension and the latter would require the Giants pushing money into the future.
Good news. The Giants utilized a rotational approach at the inside linebacker position last year but went out and got a clear-cut starter this offseason. In one of the team’s few splash moves, Schoen signed former Colts linebacker Bobby Okereke to a four-year, $40 million deal.
Okereke fills a crucial starting role that was missing from Martindale’s defense last year. His 283 combined tackles over the last two years should boost a defense that was sixth worst against the run a season ago.
Bad news. The depth behind Okereke includes various question marks. Will second-year player Darrian Beavers stay healthy after an ACL tear ruined his rookie season? Will Micah McFadden improve? Will Jarrad Davis stay consistent after he stepped up toward the end of last year?
Training camp should give us a much better idea of which linebackers not named Bobby Okereke the Giants can trust.
Good news. We saw Kayvon Thibodeaux improve as his rookie year progressed. The 2022 first-rounder will have an entire season’s worth of experience entering the new year and has the tools to take a serious leap in 2023.
Bad news. Thibodeaux and Azeez Ojulari have the potential to be one of the better pass-rushing duos in the NFC if both can stay healthy. That’s a big “if” though — Ojulari dealt with hamstring, calf, and ankle injuries last year and only played in seven games.
Good news. The Giants are set at the two boundary cornerback spots with veteran Adoree’ Jackson and first-round draft pick Deonte Banks. If the rookie Banks can stay healthy and limit the growing pains, this should be a solid unit for Martindale’s man-heavy scheme.
Bad news. The boundary depth is a different story, however. This portion of the secondary includes rookie sixth-rounder Tre Hawkins and veteran Amani Oruwariye. Plus Aaron Robinson and Rodarius Williams, two unproven youngsters who may also fight for playing time out of the slot.
This is an issue that could additionally leak into 2024, as Jackson is entering the final year of his contract.
Good news. After suffering a hand injury amid a bye-week ATV accident, starting safety Xavier McKinney missed seven games down the stretch last year. But over seven months removed from that incident, and with a new contract on the line, Giants fans have a right to expect the best football of McKinney’s career to start the season.
Bad news. The starting safety role alongside McKinney is a mystery. Is Jason Pinnock ready to assume an increased role? Could minicamp star Nick McCloud take a big leap? Can Dane Belton improve after an up-and-down rookie campaign?
There are many questions to answer, but the hope is one of these names will separate themselves during training camp.