It was once conventional thinking that offensive linemen needed up to four years to develop, but that was before big money was dolled out to rookies and the hope-filled fanfare that comes with them. Third-year Andrew Thomas and rookie Evan Neal’s performance will go a long way in deciding how the 2022 season will pan out. Therefore, looking at the edge players, they will face week to week may give us a better idea of what to expect.
Before delving in, we must recognize that the Giant’s own edge players are a bunch of kids. The five edge players likely to see any significant time, Ojulary, Thibodeaux, Roche, Smith, and Ximinez, have combined for 69 games, many of which done so as reserves. In other words, the Giant’s two tackles will face much more seasoned and wily adversaries come game day and consistently see things they have never seen before.
Week One vs. Titans: Bud Dupree & Harold Landry
Duprey had a down year returning from an ACL injury and dealing with a newer abdominal injury. He will be looking to rebound after playing only 11 games, totaling 17 tackles and three sacks during the regular season. On the other hand, Landry remained healthy the entire season, tallying 75 tackles and 12 sacks, both career highs. This isn’t an ideal pair to go up against in the season’s first game.
Week Two vs. Carolina: Brian Burns
Haason Reddick left for Philadelphia, leaving Brian Burns, 50 tackles and nine sacks, without a sure-fire partner in crime along the edge. Pending a late free agent signing or a jump in the production of Yetur Gross-Matos, this could be a confidence booster for the Giant’s tackle tandem.
Week Three & Twelve vs. Cowboys: Demarcus Lawrence & Micah Parsons
I have a feeling these two might be a problem. Parsons, last year’s defensive rookie of the year, merely had 84 tackles and 13 sacks. Lawrence was limited to 7 games last year but has relished tormenting the Giants, and this time doesn’t have to be the leading man doing it. Being the third game, this will be a good litmus test for the offensive line.
Week Four vs. Bears: Robert Quinn
Robert Quinn only had 49 tackles but 18 ½ sacks. He continues to eat well even after Khalil Mack, now with the Chargers, went down with an injury. He now has Trevis Gibson, who got a respectable seven sacks in his first full season.
Week Five vs. Packers: Preston Smith & Rashan Gary
Smith, nine sacks, and Gary, 9.5 sacks, are a deadly tandem coming from the outside linebacker position. They also have defensive end Dean Lowry and pro bowler Kenny Clark with 5 and 4 sacks, respectively. Neal and Thomas will have several opponents to account for on any given play.
Week Six vs. Ravens: Tyus Bowser & David Ojabo
The Giants have a slight edge in this instance since they employ Baltimore’s former defensive coordinator. Hopefully, Wink Martindale has some choice tips for his line. Bynes led the underperforming pass rush with seven sacks last year. This year’s second-round pick David Ojabo may be most likely to help bring the heat. It will likely be a disappointment if the Giants tackles don’t handle their business on October 16th.
Week Seven vs. Jaguars: Josh Allen, Travon Walker & Dawuane Smoot
Josh Allen, 71 tackles, seven and a half sacks and first over all pick Travon Walker will be a premier match up. Smoot had six sacks last year and will be pushed for playing time by the second-year Roy Robertson-Harris, who had three sacks in 14 games. Then
Week Eight vs. Seahawks: Darrell Taylor & Shelby Harris
With Carlos Dunlap likely finishing his career with Kansas City and Green Joining the Texans, it will be left to second-year Darrell Taylor, with six sacks, and newly acquired Shelby Harris, also with six packs, to lead the way. This is expected to be one of the easier matchups of the season; growing pains be damned.
Week Ten vs. Texans: Jonathan Greenard & Rasheem Green
Third-round pick Greenard didn’t rack up the tackles but did have eight sacks and 12 QB hits. Green comes over from the Seahawks after a 2010 season where he totaled 48 tackles and six and a half sacks. Both Giant’s tackles are top ten picks. New York City will have a collective aneurysm if they don’t dominate this game.
Week Eleven vs. Detroit: Aiden Hutchinson & the Okwara Brothers
Second pick overall, Michigan’s own comes to town, and though he is still an unknown quantity, we assume he will be something of a challenge. Romeo returns after an injury-shortened 2021 season, hoping to repeat his 10-sack season the year before. Brother Julian got five sacks while only making 27 tackles last year.
Week Thirteen & Fifteen vs. Redskins: Chase Young & Montez Sweat
Assuming Young bounces back from a disappointing season culminating in a torn ACL last November, he and Sweat will be one of the season’s biggest challenges. Thomas and Neal won’t likely be getting any help from the guards because they will have their hands complete with pro-bowler Johnathan Allen and Daron Payne, who combined for 13.5 sacks and 45 QB hits. Giant fans will know what they have in an offensive line after weeks 13-15.
Week Fourteen & Eighteen vs. Eagles: Josh Sweat & Brandon Graham
The entire defensive front had double-digit QB hits last year, and now Brandon Graham returns for a 13th year after a season cut short by injury. Pro-bowler Sweat will be coming off a 45 tackle, seven-and-a-half sax season. Much like against the Commanders, the Giant tackles will not be getting much help from the interior with Javon Hargrave, another pro bowler, and the formidable Fletcher Cox pushing into the pocket. These games may be more about the interior line than the tackles.
Week Sixteen vs. Vikings: Za’darius Smith, Danielle Hunter, D.J. Wonnum
Za’darius Smith comes from Green Bay to join Hunter, both of which have multiple double-digit sack seasons rushing from the outside linebacker position. This will be a classic battle of youth vs. experience. Wonnum had a solid eight sacks and 47 tackles in his second season last year and should not be overlooked.
Week Seventeen vs. Colts: Kwity Paye & Yannick Ngakoue
Paye had a decent rookie season with 32 tackles and four sacks playing defensive end. He will be paired with newly added Yannick Ngakoue, who had a career-high ten sacks last year. They will have Deforest Buckner at tackle which may prevent any help from reaching the tackles.
Who do the Giant’s Opponents Have to Fear: Azeez Ojulari, Leonard Williams & Kayvon Thibodeaux
Williams’ 81 tackle, six and a half sack season look to have been omitted from pro bowl consideration because he was on a bad team, while Ojulari’s eight sack season was third among last year’s rookies. Both had double-digit QB hits. Joining them is the number five overall pick, Kayvon Thibodeaux, from Oregon, who was considered the likely first overall pick.
As Andrew Thomas could attest, after playing through a pass-rushing gauntlet of talent his rookie season, it could be much worse than what this schedule has lined up for them. Evan Neal also has a better veteran complement of teammates to help him adjust to the pro game.
The most crucial factor may be that in 2020 the coaching for the offensive line seemed to be in a constant state of chaos. In 2021, they had a line coach from the college ranks who had never coached in the NFL. This year Daboll brought Bobby Johnson over with him from the Bills. Johnson has 12 years of coaching in the NFL and is coming off a successful rebuild of the Buffalo offensive line.