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Fact or Fiction: Outlook for Daniel Jones in 2023

FACT-OR-FICTION

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

Daniel Jones will have more than 4,000 yards through the air and on the ground combined.

John Schmeelk: Fact – The answer begins with the fact Daniel Jones only played 16 games last year because he sat out the final game of the regular season. If he plays one more game, the number immediately goes up. I also expect the Giants to throw more this year because of the addition of Darren Waller, and a tougher crop of opponents that may force them to try to put more points on the scoreboard. He should improve his pass output, and I expect his rushing yards to stay above 500.

Dan Salomone: Fact – The foundation is there for Jones to match a career year with another one. Stack up his weapons (old and new), coaching, and confidence of being the guy now – and 4,000 is reachable.

Lance Medow: Fiction – Last season, Daniel Jones finished with 3,913 total yards, so he was right at the border of 4,000. I think his rushing yards (708) will go slightly down with some new faces in the backfield and the Giants' desire to throw the ball a bit more, especially down the field. But the latter could easily lead to more yards through the air. Ultimately, I can see those two factors offsetting the difference and him coming up just shy of 4,000 again.

Matt Citak: Fact – Now in Year 2 in the offense, with the addition of several new offensive weapons such as Darren Waller, Parris Campbell and Jalin Hyatt, Jones should not have trouble topping the 4,000-yard mark. While he might not top his 708 rushing yards from last season, it's fair to say Jones could improve from the 3,205 passing yards he had.

Defensive linemen Leonard Williams and Dexter Lawrence will combine for at least 12 sacks.

John Schmeelk: Fiction – Last year, they combined for only 10 sacks, but Leonard Williams was dealing with an injury for most of the season. Wink Martindale's defense often spreads sack totals around, so it will be especially tough for two defensive tackles to combine for at least 12 sacks. I would go over here if the combination of players was Lawrence and Azeez Ojulari.

Dan Salomone: Fact – Wink Martindale is just getting started with this defense, so the numbers should only increase across the board. The Giants see the most max protections in the league for a reason. "Because we know how to hit the quarterback," Martindale said. "They know it. It's not like I'm being boastful either. They just know that we know how to defeat protections. If you ask any offensive coach in the league, they'll tell you that."

Lance Medow: Fact – In 2022, Leonard Williams (2.5) and Dexter Lawrence (7.5) combined for 10 sacks. Keep in mind, Williams missed five games. Even if Lawrence can't reproduce his career year and his tally takes a slight dip, I don't think it's a stretch for Williams to have at least five or six. Twelve is absolutely a reasonable target.

Matt Citak: Fact – In their three full seasons playing together, Williams and Lawrence have combined for 12+ sacks once (15.5 total sacks in 2020). However, Lawrence is coming off a breakout campaign in which he recorded a career-high 7.5 sacks. That number could have been even higher, as the talented defensive lineman finished the season with 70 total pressures (including the playoffs). Williams had only 2.5 sacks in 2022, one of the lowest sack totals of his eight-year career, due in large part to an injury suffered in Week 2. With both players healthy, 12 total sacks shouldn't be too difficult of a goal for the pair to reach.

View all the action from the Quest Diagnostics Training Center as OTAs come to a close.

Safety Xavier McKinney will lead the team in interceptions.

John Schmeelk: Fact – Xavier McKinney is heading into the final year of his rookie contract, and if he manages to stay healthy for the entire season, he could have a breakout year. His versatility will allow Wink Martindale to use him in centerfield, in the slot, and as a robber in the middle of the defense. He has excellent instincts, and I expect him to take advantage of the Giants' myriad of pressures and be able to anticipate some passes and set a career high in interceptions.

Dan Salomone: Fiction – I'll go a little off the beaten trail here and say linebacker Bobby Okereke, who has already shown a nose for the ball in coverage during his first few months with the Giants. Sack totals aren't the only things that get spread around in this defense. During Martindale's four seasons as the Ravens' defensive coordinator, the single-season interception high was four by cornerback Marcus Peters in 2020.

Lance Medow: Fact – The Giants had only six interceptions last season, so two was good enough to lead the way as Julian Love and Dane Belton each reached that mark. In Wink Martindale's system, with corners playing a lot of man-to-man, it's not easy for them to pile up the picks because they're much more focused on their assignments. That's not to say there won't be opportunities for interceptions, but as last season proved, it's far more likely a safety will top the list as that position has a bit more flexibility to make plays on the ball. Given his hand injury limited him to only nine games and he had no interceptions in 2022, I think Xavier McKinney is a strong choice for a bounce back campaign.

Matt Citak: Fiction – McKinney led the team with five interceptions in 2021, and it wouldn't surprise anyone if he did the same this year. But I'm going to go with a different safety to register the most interceptions in 2023 – Dane Belton. In his rookie season, Belton played only 39 percent of the team's defensive snaps, and yet he finished with two interceptions. The second-year safety will be competing to start at safety next to McKinney, which at the very least should lead to Belton seeing more snaps on defense. Let's not forget that in his final season at Iowa, Belton totaled five interceptions.

Outside linebacker Kayvon Thibodeaux will double his rookie total of four sacks.

John Schmeelk: Fiction – This was the toughest one for me. I think he might hit eight exactly. No edge rusher has ever topped 10 sacks in a Wink Martindale defense, so getting to that number for any player is difficult. A couple of Thibodeaux's sacks last year were also of the unblocked variety. I think he'll approach eight but come up just short with 7.5, which will fall just behind Azeez Ojulari.

Dan Salomone: Fact – The runway is clear and the jet is fueled up. Kayvon Thibodeaux, the former fifth overall pick, is ready for takeoff. "First of all, I love the kid himself," Martindale said recently on the "Giants Huddle: Front Office Edition" podcast. "I said earlier he has no ceiling, and I believe that because he can do whatever he puts his mind to. We talked about last year after the season was over with, I said, 'I think you need to get stronger in your legs and your core.' That was his focus this year in the offseason, and you're going to see that keep developing. He's going to get better and better every game that he plays here."

Lance Medow: Fiction – Expecting Kayvon Thibodeaux to double his rookie sack total may be a little too much. Let's not overlook Azeez Ojulari went from eight sacks in his first year to 5.5 in 2022. The volume of games played influenced Ojulari's total, but the point is it's very hard to duplicate production in consecutive seasons, let alone double it.

Matt Citak: Fact – A knee injury suffered during the preseason cost Thibodeaux the first two weeks of his rookie season. It took some time for the outside linebacker to get going, but once he did, he showed that he can be a force in the pass rush. Thibodeaux had three sacks, five quarterback hits and a forced fumble in his last five regular season games, while Pro Football Focus had him down for 12 total pressures. Assuming he can stay healthy, Thibodeaux could be in for a big sophomore season, especially if Azeez Ojulari is lining up on the other edge.