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Fact or Fiction: Potential of Kayvon Thibodeaux, Brian Burns together


The crew is presented with four statements and must decide whether they are Fact or Fiction.

What the Giants did in free agency altered what you now think they will do in the draft.

John Schmeelk: Fiction – I thought the Giants were going to address an offensive position with the sixth overall pick, and I remain standing firmly in place. I lean towards receiver a bit more given the additions on the offensive line, but a quarterback or another offensive tackle would not shock me either. The loss of Saquon Barkley makes it a bit more essential to add a dynamic playmaker on offense, and adding one of the elite receivers with the sixth pick would still seem the obvious choice based on need and value. But we will see.

Dan Salomone: Fiction – We'll get another glimpse into the plans when the top decision-makers speak at the league meetings next week, but for now, it's best not to think of free agency and the draft as separate events. They don't go blindly into one without thinking through how it affects the other. "Free agency will set the table for some of the decisions we make in the draft," general manager Joe Schoen said at the NFL Scouting Combine. Now we just have to wait for the meal to be served on April 25.

Lance Medow: Fiction – The 2024 draft isn't just about meeting needs for the upcoming season but instead far beyond. When you select a player, you're not hoping he simply peaks as a rookie but will contribute and improve over the length of his first contract and earn a second deal. You also don't know how injuries will play out over the next several years. That's more of a reason you can never have enough at any given position. From that standpoint, I would argue every year I don't think what a team does in free agency should drastically alter its approach to the draft. The Giants have signed five offensive linemen, a quarterback, running back, wide receiver, defensive back and acquired a pass rusher. They've already addressed several spots, but the length of the contracts is different and there's also no guarantee everyone will make the 53-man roster. I can still see the team drafting players at those various spots as the front office is also taking into consideration who will be eligible to hit free agency in 2025 and whether they need more competition across the roster.

Matt Citak: Fact – Prior to the start of free agency, I would have argued that the offensive line and the pass rush were right up there among the Giants' biggest needs in this year's draft. I would have guessed that two of the team's first four picks would have been spent on those two positions. But following the additions of Jon Runyan Jr., Jermaine Eluemunor, Aaron Stinnie, and Austin Schlottmann, in addition to the acquisition of Brian Burns, I think the front office has already addressed those two areas. The Giants did not address all of their needs in free agency, but the moves made certainly helped clear up the draft outlook a bit.

The most important position in Shane Bowen's defense is edge rusher.

John Schmeelk: Fact – Shane Bowen’s defense requires his players to pressure the quarterback without blitzing and often utilizes a fairly wide alignment up front. It gives defensive ends ideal opportunities to get after the quarterback and win 1-on-1 against offensive tackles. Brian Burns fits that edge rusher role perfectly with his combination of size, length and top-end athleticism to use a variety of moves to get to the quarterback. In a defense that primarily utilizes zone coverage, pressure is paramount; otherwise receivers can have all the time they need to find the holes in coverage.

Dan Salomone: Fiction – When you're consistently a top defense on third down and in the red zone, it's not about just one player or position group. That takes everyone on defense. Those Titans defenses were built on playing sound and tough, especially in the key situations.

Lance Medow: Fact – Shane Bowen will not blitz as much as his predecessor Wink Martindale as the numbers in Tennessee tell it all. In his three seasons (2021-2023) as Titans defensive coordinator, the team's blitz percentage was between 18 and 22 in each of those three campaigns. In comparison, the Giants blitzed 40 percent of the time in 2022 and 45 percent last season. When you take that differential into consideration, the importance and value of the pass rushers come to the forefront. In 2023, Harold Landry (10.5) and Denico Autry (11.5) each posted double-digit sacks for the Titans, accounting for half the team's production. The previous year, Landry suffered a torn ACL during practice in late August and Autry was sidelined for five games. As a result, the dynamics of the Tennessee defense were quite different. Brian Burns and Kayvon Thibodeaux will determine the outlook of this year's Giants unit.

Matt Citak: Fact – Last year, the Giants blitzed at the second-highest rate in the NFL at 46 percent. Shane Bowen's defensive scheme comes at the opposite end of that spectrum, as the 2023 Titans blitzed only 19 percent of the time. This is obviously a stark difference. Bowen's defense relies on the front four to succeed in applying pressure, which means Brian Burns and Kayvon Thibodeaux will be leaned on heavily. Of course, Dexter Lawrence will have his fair share of pressures as well, but in order for the defense to succeed this season, the unit will have to get some strong production out of its edge rushers.

View photos of the newest members of the Giants touring the Quest Diagnostics Training Center for the first time.

Kayvon Thibodeaux and Brian Burns will combine for at least 20 sacks this season.

John Schmeelk: Fact – Twenty is a big number. I would be surprised if both players surpassed 10 sacks, but would I be shocked if Brian Burns finished with 12 and Kayvon Thibodeaux finished with eight? Absolutely not. Burns has surpassed 10 sacks once in his career, but I believe his skillset and tape show a player that's capable of being in the upper echelon of pass rushers. Sometimes the production just doesn't match up due to circumstances beyond the player's control. I expect Burns to get at least 12 this year, which should be enough to pair with Thibodeaux for at least 20.

Dan Salomone: Fact – According to NFL Research, Burns is one of eight players ever to record at least 7.5 sacks in each of his first five seasons. The others are Reggie White, Derrick Thomas, DeMarcus Ware, Jared Allen, Aaron Donald, Ryan Kerrigan, and Yannick Ngakoue. So, that's quite a baseline. I think the synergy of him, Thibodeaux, and Dexter Lawrence will help all three individually and as a unit.

Lance Medow: Fiction – As I indicated in my response to the previous statement, last season, the Titans' top two pass rushers, Harold Landry and Denico Autry, combined for 22 sacks. That made a world of difference in comparison to 2022. Thibodeaux is coming off his first double-digit (11.5) sack season while Burns has posted at least 7.5 in each of his five campaigns in the league. The bigger wild card here is Thibodeaux because there's a much smaller sample size, and keep in mind, he had 8.5 of his 11.5 sacks in the first eight contests in 2023 but only three in the final nine games. Let's say Burns comes through with his average of nine sacks. While Kayvon is capable of 11, it's still far from a guarantee, so I'll go slightly under.

Matt Citak: Fact – Just look at my answer above. The success of the pass rush will depend on Thibodeaux and Burns winning their individual matchups and how they complement each other. Thibodeaux is the best pass rusher Burns has played with since Haason Reddick in 2021. That year, Burns and Reddick combined for 20 sacks. Add in Dexter Lawrence drawing attention on the interior and it's easy to see Thibodeaux and Burns combing for at least that many this season.

Running back Devin Singletary is the most intriguing offseason addition so far.

John Schmeelk: Fiction – I became a big fan of Devin Singletary after going through his tape. His size allows him to slither through the line, making it difficult for defenders to find him behind the offensive line. His contact balance and small-space elusiveness is excellent, even though he lacks Barkley's top-end speed. With that said, I lean towards Jermaine Eluemunor, who could start at three different positions on the offensive line and gives the Giants the flexibility they need to have a better chance of getting their five best offensive linemen on the field at the same time. He can play either guard spot depending on where Jon Runyan Jr. (and Aaron Stinnie?) are most comfortable, but more importantly he can be a plug-and-play starter at right tackle if the organization decides it would like to try Evan Neal inside at guard. His addition yields the most intriguing results.

Dan Salomone: Fact – What's most intriguing is his consistency. Here's a chronological look at his season totals for yards from scrimmage: 969, 956, 1,098, 1,099, and 1091. His 4,049 rushing yards rank 13th among NFL running backs since he was selected in the third round (74th overall) of the 2019 NFL Draft . Right behind him is Saquon Barkley, who played 20 fewer games in that span but had 52 more carries.

Lance Medow: Fiction – The veteran running back can contribute on the ground and through the air, and has familiarity with Brian Daboll's scheme. He'll likely be the primary back in place of Saquon Barkley, but I'm not sure I'd label him as intriguing. I think it's fair to say the Giants know exactly what they're getting in Singletary. That's why Isaiah McKenzie fits that bill. He also crossed paths with Daboll in western New York, but his skillset as a return man, receiver and running back makes him an interesting player. His style is also similar to Wan'Dale Robinson as he can turn a short pass into an explosive play and make defenders miss in open space. How the Giants feature and utilize MeKenzie could give the opposition something additional to think about.

Matt Citak: Fiction – Singletary would be my second choice, but as of now, the honor of most intriguing offseason addition has to be Jermaine Eluemunor. The veteran offensive lineman is coming off his two best seasons in the NFL, both of which were spent with the Las Vegas Raiders alongside new Giants offensive line coach Carmen Bricillo. Eluemunor did not allow a sack in 14 of 17 games last year, and did not surrender a single pressure in seven different contests. He has experience at right tackle, right guard and left guard, thus providing the O-line with some versatility. The 29-year-old could serve as insurance in case Evan Neal struggles to start the season, but can also line up next to Neal at right guard. While he may not have been the biggest signing made this offseason, if he helps stabilize the protection up front, Eluemunor could turn out to be the most impactful.


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