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3 reasons why the New York Giants pass rush will improve in 2023

The New York Giants raised its sack total from 34 in 2021 to 41 last season under defensive coordinator Don “Wink” Martindale. Heading into the 2023 season, New York’s pass rush could be even better.

The rise in sacks was attributed in large part due to Dexter Lawrence, one of the NFL Top 100 players in 2023, earning All-Pro honors and setting a career-high in sacks (7.5).

Despite the increase in production, some felt the Giants’ pass rush could have been better, particularly from Kayvon Thibodeaux (four sacks). As we look ahead to the 2023 season, Thibodeaux could be one of the reasons why the Giants’ pass rush improves.

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Kayvon Thibodeaux will have a huge second season

New York Giants
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Often, players make the biggest leap in their careers from year one to year two due to the natural progression of getting acclimated to the speed and physicality of the game. There’s no reason to believe that the 22-year-old edge rusher won’t take his game to the next level this season.

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Thibodeaux’s rookie season got off to a rough start as the pass rusher suffered an MCL sprain in New York’s second preseason game against the Cincinnati Bengals. The injury would cost him to miss the first two games of the season, and he wasn’t able to record his first NFL sack until Week 6 when he stripped sacked Lamar Jackson in the final moments of New York’s 24-20 victory over the Baltimore Ravens.

Thibodeaux never used his knee injury as a reason for his lack of sacks, but it was surely hampering him early in the season. Later in the season, he showed signs that he can be an elite player in this league as he illustrated in Week 15 at Washington when he had 12 tackles and a strip sack for a touchdown and was named NFC Defensive Player of the Week.

If the second-year pass rusher from Oregon can avoid injuries this season, he’ll earn even more accolades and a double-digit sack season.

A healthy Azeez Ojulari

NFL: Cincinnati Bengals at New York Giants
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Thibodeaux wasn’t the only pass rusher dealing with injuries last season. A calf injury kept Azeez Ojulari out of action for the team’s first two games and then he suffered a setback in October which led to the team placing him on IR. He wouldn’t make his return until December 4th against Washington.

The injury would limit the second-year pass rusher to appear in just seven games last season. Despite his inactivity, he still finished second on the team in sacks with five and a half and was a disruptive force when he was on the field.

There were big expectations for Ojulari heading into the 2022 season. As a rookie, he set the franchise record for most sacks by a rookie with eight. The belief was that he would have double-digit sacks and be in consideration for the Pro Bowl. Ojulari has everything you want in a pass rusher. He’s athletic, plays hard, and has great technique. If he can stay healthy, he’ll achieve the goals that were expected from him last season.

Improvement with more experience under Don Martindale

New York Giants
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Even for the savviest of veterans, it can take time to fully grasp the concept of a new scheme. While the pass rush improved in the first year with Martindale, there were still learning curves during the course of the season, and several players missed time due to injuries such as the above-mentioned Thibodeaux and Ojulari, as well as Leonard Williams.

Most of the defense is intact from a season ago and have a firm grasp of the defense as they participate in their offseason workouts. Instead of trying to learn a new system last year, Martindale will have his players work on new wrinkles that will confuse opposing offenses.

In addition to New York’s talented front seven, Martindale has some help in the secondary with first-round pick cornerback Deonte Banks. Having a talented corner that he trusts playing on the opposite side of Adoree’ Jackson will allow Martindale to become more exotic with his blitz packages.

Expect the blitz-heavy Giants defense to blitz more frequently this coming season which will lead to the team improving once again on their sack total.

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