The New York Giants talent level at the OLB/EDGE position before the 2021 draft was considered weak and non-productive. That all changed with the drafting of Azeez Ojulari in 2021 and Kayvon Thibodeaux in 2022. The Giants now have two play making OLB/EDGE for the first time since two guys named LT/Banks. Let’s take a look at the OLB/EDGE on the current roster.
- Kayvon Thibodeaux: Thibodeaux was the Giants 1st or two picks in round 1 of the 2022 draft and he’s expected to hit the ground running and be an impact player on day one. DC Martindale has already made reference to utilizing Thibodeaux in various packages and allowing his natural talents to flourish. The Giants are envisioning Thibodeaux to have an impact like Micah Parsons did with Dallas in 2021.
- Azeez Ojulari: Ojulari set a New York Giants record for sacks as a rookie with 8 in 2021 (Sacks became official in 1982-LT had an 9.5 in 1981). Ojulari will benefit having Thibodeaux on the other side and could see double digit sacks in 2022 along with Thibodeaux. The last time the Giants had two players with double digit sacks in the same year was in 2010 (Justin Tuck and Osi Umenyiora with 11.5 each).
- Quincy Roche: The Giants picked up Roche through waivers from the Pittsburgh Steelers and made an immediate impact. Roche could be utilized as a rotational OLB and it wouldn’t surprise me if DC Martindale creates many packages with Thibodeaux, Ojulari and Roche all on the field at the same time.
- Jihad Ward: Ward was GM Joe Schoen biggest defensive free agent signing this off season and offers depth to a position that is now considered on the best on the defensive side of the ball. Ward has good size (6’5/297) and will give the Giants solid run support and could also be utilized along the defensive line in some packages.
- Oshane Ximines: To be honest, I thought Ximines would have been released by now, so I’m not sure what the Giants plans are for him. When you look at the top 4 OLB/EDGE players listed ahead of him, along with Smith and Fox as well. My guess is Ximines will not make the final roster and will be gone well before the final cuts.
- Elerson Smith: Smith was the Giants 4th round selection in 2021 and spent most of his time either on the IR or on the practice squad. Smith has ability, especially as a pass rusher, but needs to add more muscle to his 6’7 frame. I’m not totally sold that he is guaranteed a spot on the 53-man roster, but if he has a very impressive training camp it could make that decision a lot easier for the Giants.
- Niko Lalos: Lalos has been with the Giants now for the past two seasons and did contribute a little in his 1st season with a fumble recovery and an interception. However; unless he has an overwhelming training camp, I think Lalos could find himself on the practice squad (if not claimed off waivers) or released in 2022.
- Tomon Fox: When former Giants great and the greatest defensive player in NFL history gives you an endorsement like the one Lawrence Taylor gave for Fox, you have to take notice. Fox has excellent pass rushing skills and can also be solid in run support with his size (6’3/270). Fox really needs to stand out in training camp to win a spot on the final roster as most UDFA signings do, but it’s not a reach for him at all.
As I mentioned, the OLB/EDGE position for the Giants is arguably the most talented group on the defensive side of the ball and that’s something that couldn’t have been said prior to this season. I expect DC Wink Martindale to really be creative with this group and utilize their talents as much as possible. I wouldn’t be shocked if we see Thibodeaux, Ojulari, Roche and Ward all on the field together in some defensive packages. Keep an eye out for my next article spotlighting the Giants ILB.