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PFF: Giants’ defensive line ranks 22nd in NFL

PFF ranks the Giants’ Defensive line near the bottom of the NFL but can the young talent take that next step in 2022?

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Carolina Panthers v New York Giants Photo by Sarah Stier/Getty Images

With the current downtime in the NFL, we are right in the heart of power rankings season. Pro Football Focus recently ranked all NFL defensive lines by separating them into tiers — six in total. The New York Giants fell under tier 5: Relying on younger players to make a leap at 22 overall.


The Giants’ defensive front has a high ceiling, but that’s reliant on Kayvon Thibodeaux and Azeez Ojulari performing at a high level in their first and second NFL seasons, respectively. Thibodeaux has ideal pass-rush traits off the edge that led to a 91.5 pass-rushing grade at Oregon in 2021, but it can sometimes take players in the trenches a season or two to find their footing once jumping to the NFL. Ojulari does have one of those years under his belt already — earning just a 56.9 PFF pass-rush grade despite some success in the pressure column (42).

Leonard Williams and Dexter Lawrence form a nice foundation on the interior, but the Giants need Thibodeaux and Ojulari to hit to really elevate the unit.

While the ranking may feel a little underwhelming for Giants fans, they are settled right behind divisional rival Dallas Cowboys and much talked about Micah Parsons at 21 and are the highest team ranked in tier 5. Also, the lowest tier titled “Question marks at multiple positions,” means that it could be much worse.

Leonard Williams has been a reliable presence on the inside and was one of the three best players on the roster according to PFF. Dexter Lawerence has grown from just a run-stuffing tackle, putting together his best pass-rushing grade and most pressures in 2021 ranking just inside the top 20 of interior defenders according to Pro Football Focus.

Where the Giants can really improve to take the next step is solely based on the production and improvement of the young players on the edge. Top 5 pick Kayvon Thibodeaux has massive expectations coming into year one. The Oregon standout was widely considered the best pass rusher and possibly player in the 2022 class until off-the-field concerns caused him to fall to number five. Opposite of Thibodeaux is second-year edge rusher Azeez Ojulari. After putting up 8 sacks as a rookie, expectations are even higher now having an alpha edger rusher on the opposite side of Ojulari and is widely considered a breakout candidate for 2022.

Overall, the Giants’ ranking feels pretty on point based on the players on the roster. They have a dependable foundation in the interior but they are heavily relying on young edge rushers in 2022. We will have to see how these players execute in the new system but with all the talent it’s hard to not get excited about what can be.