RANKING THE NY GIANTS’ DEFENSIVE POSITION GROUPS

The New York Giants have significantly improved the defensive side of the ball through the draft and free agency this offseason. They also retained essential starters and depth pieces to take a 2nd-year leap in the Wink Martindale system. Here is my ranking for the four major position groups heading into the 2023 season: safeties, linebackers, defensive line, and corners.

AP

                                                            Defensive Line

This felt like the easy choice. This group may be the best on the NY Giants regardless of offense or defense. The interior D-Line is phenomenal.
Headlined by newly extended All-Pro Sexy Dexy and his “best friend” Leonard Williams, they compete to be the best interior duo in football. The additions of A’Shawn Robinson and Rakeem Nunez-Robinson, signed in free agency, will give the Giants the rotational depth they lacked last season to give the big guys a breather.
On edge, we have 2nd-year standouts Kayvon Thibodeaux and Azeri Ojulari. Kayvon showed flashes of greatness and the ability to make plays when the Giants needed it most. In his sophomore year, fans expected KT to surpass his four sacks and 48 combined tackles due to his draft pedigree and clear potential.
Defensive Coordinator Wink Martindale says he sees “no ceiling” for the young Outside Linebacker. Azeez Ojulari is more of a known commodity and difference maker. Going into his third year, when on the field, he has been phenomenal.
He averages .79 sacks a game which is on par with Micah Parsons and better than Brian Burns and Maxx Crosby last season. The problem is he only played seven games. There is no doubt that he has the talent, but his ability to stay on the field will determine whether or not he is regarded as a premier pass rusher in this league.

Robert Sabo/New York Post
Cornerback

There is a significant drop off from the D-Line to Cornerback in proven talent, but this group has the potential to be very successful this upcoming season. The cornerback room for the Giants is young, but I look forward to watching these players leap in year two of the Wink Martindale-led defense.
Playing cornerback in Martindale’s scheme is a challenging task. Due to the heavy blitz approach, Wink relies on press man corners to hold up the backend while the guys up front get to the quarterback. Last season the secondary was a primary concern heading into the season. The CB room was running thin after cutting James Braderry for salary cap savings, but Adoree Jackson stepped up to the plate. He allowed 31 completions (60 targets) for 398 receiving yards and two touchdowns, racking up 51 tackles (two for loss) and seven passes defended. Jackson heading into a contract year, is only 27 years old and may have made a strong case for an extension.
The Giants also used their first overall pick on Deonte Banks, a solid physical corner that Wink Martindale described as “winning the lottery” when the Giants traded up to 24 to pick him.
Behind these guys, young players, including Cor’Dale Flott (2nd-year player), Darnay Holmes, and Nick McCloud, have shown potential and will most likely be competing for the starting slot corner spot. Because of Joe Schoen’s commitment to draft capital and inheriting Adoree Jackson, the cornerback rooms should be an area of strength for the Giants this upcoming season, depending on the development of their younger players.

AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez
Safety

Safety is the 3rd best position group on the Giant’s defense. Choosing between Safety and Linebacker at the number three spot was tough since they are both pretty thin.
Xavier McKinney is carrying this group on his back. He’s quickly become one of the best young safeties in the NFL and the only bright spot in the safety room. Outside of McKinney, there is little to be excited about.
Jason Pinnock is currently penciled in as the strong safety who was a mid-season Jets practice squad pickup last year.
Dane Belton, who was taken in the 4th round of last year’s draft, showed promise but struggled when thrust into the starting lineup during Mckinney’s recovery. I’m still high on his potential and look forward to watching him in year 2. The Giants will still add more talent to this position group through free agency or trade as we approach the season.

Bill Kostroun
Linebacker

Even though Linebacker is ranked last, this group is significantly better than last season. The addition of Bobby Okereke as the Giant’s big off-season splash signing has upgraded the top-end talent of this young group, while the rest is questionable at best.
The RILB spot opposite Okereke is still up for grabs. Wink Martindale said it’s currently a competition between Jarrad Davis, Micah McFadden, and Darrian Beavers. Beavers is currently penciled in as the starter, but Martindale recently said Micah McFadden has “really improved” from years one to two and could make a push to be the week one starter. It is worth putting more stock in off-season chatter once these young guys can prove themselves on the field.
Re-signing mid-season addition, Jarrad Davis locks down a veteran presence who can be serviceable but by no means ideal. There are reasons to be excited about this group, but the success will likely hinge on Bobby Okereke’s play this season.