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How Brian Burns fits with Kayvon Thibodeaux in Shane Bowen's defense


The Giants' defense has undergone significant changes this offseason, starting with the hiring of Shane Bowen to lead the unit.

The former Titans defensive coordinator will now rely more on the front four to produce pressure on the quarterback as opposed to blitzing at a high rate. In Tennessee last year, Bowen's defense had a blitz rate of 20.4 percent, which ranked 24th in the league (compared to the Giants' 46.2 percent blitz rate, the second-highest in the NFL).

Based on the new system, the defense will lean heavily on its edge defenders to get after the quarterback. This is why it should not come as a surprise that the Giants' biggest splash of the offseason came in the acquisition of outside linebacker Brian Burns in a trade with the Carolina Panthers.

"Productive player, young player," coach Brian Daboll said about Burns at the NFL Annual Meeting. "I'm happy that Joe (Schoen) ended up getting that deal done. I know Shane is as well and Charlie (Bullen), our new outside linebacker coach. I had a chance to meet Burns when he came up and signed, and he's a good man. It will be good to get him in and get him working and introduced to our program and our values and things that we believe in. I credit really Joe. Joe did an outstanding job."

In his introductory press conference, Burns told Giants fans what they can expect from the two-time Pro Bowler.

"They're getting somebody that's coming to work, always be professional, always be a pro, that's number one," Burns said. "Other than that, I'm coming to work, I'm relentless. They're getting a playmaker. They're just getting a guy that's really going to enjoy the process, take it day by day. I really take a lot of pride in getting better. I feel like I can learn from a lot of cats, especially on this team. Other than that, I'm a team guy, always been a team guy. I'm a natural leader. I'm just ready to get to work and ready to get with these guys."

Burns will now play opposite Kayvon Thibodeaux, who enjoyed a breakout campaign that saw him reach double-digit sacks in his second season. They will combine to create a formidable pass-rushing duo on the edge, something the former Carolina Panther is very much looking forward to.

"As far as us being similar, I would say our body types are somewhat similar," Burns said about Thibodeaux. "Other than that, he can burn the edge, but I do know that he's a little more prone to get into that long-arm, that power a little bit more. I definitely think we could complement each other more in practice, because I feel like he could teach me some things, I could teach him some things, and we could really bounce ideas off of each other. That's really how pass rushers come up with a lot of their moves and their plans for that week. I think that will be the main thing is the IQ."

Below is a look at the state of the Giants' edge defenders, beginning with last year's game-by-game starters:

Table inside Article
DAL Azeez Ojulari Kayvon Thibodeaux
@ARI Jihad Ward Kayvon Thibodeaux
@SF Jihad Ward Kayvon Thibodeaux
SEA Azeez Ojulari Kayvon Thibodeaux
@MIA Azeez Ojulari Kayvon Thibodeaux
@BUF Jihad Ward Kayvon Thibodeaux
WAS Jihad Ward Kayvon Thibodeaux
NYJ Jihad Ward Kayvon Thibodeaux
@LV Jihad Ward Kayvon Thibodeaux
@DAL Jihad Ward Kayvon Thibodeaux
@WAS Jihad Ward Kayvon Thibodeaux
NE Jihad Ward Kayvon Thibodeaux
GB Azeez Ojulari Kayvon Thibodeaux
@NO Azeez Ojulari Kayvon Thibodeaux
@PHI -- Kayvon Thibodeaux
LAR Azeez Ojulari Kayvon Thibodeaux
PHI Azeez Ojulari Kayvon Thibodeaux

View photos of every move made by the Giants during the 2024 cycle.


Brian Burns

Previous Team: Carolina Panthers

Career: 80 G, 67 GS

Burns, 6-foot-5 and 250 pounds, was originally the 16th overall pick in the 2019 NFL Draft by the Carolina Panthers and has registered 46 sacks in 80 career games. His sack total is tied for 12th in the NFL since he entered the league while his 59 tackles for loss are tied for the sixth-most in that span. It took him only five seasons to climb all the way up to fifth on the Panthers' all-time sack list. He has also recorded 95 quarterback hits, eight forced fumbles, and two fumble recoveries.

Burns is one of just eight players in NFL history to have at least 7.5 sacks in each of his first five seasons (Reggie White, Derrick Thomas, DeMarcus Ware, Jared Allen, Aaron Donald, Ryan Kerrigan, and Yannick Ngakoue). Burns' best season came in 2022 when he posted career-highs in sacks (12.5) and quarterback hits (22) on his way to his second consecutive Pro Bowl selection.


Kayvon Thibodeaux

Career: 31 G, 31 GS

Thibodeaux enjoyed a breakout sophomore season last year as he registered 11.5 sacks, 12 tackles for loss, 16 quarterback hits and three forced fumbles, all of which set new career-highs. He also had four passes defensed and finished with 50 total tackles (26 solo) along with 44 total pressures.

The 23-year-old started 14 games in his first season and had four sacks, two forced fumbles, five passes defensed, six tackles for loss and 13 quarterback hits. He finished fourth in the AP Defensive Rookie of the Year voting.

Azeez Ojulari

Career: 35 G, 25 GS

For the second consecutive season, Injuries derailed Ojulari's campaign. The 6-foot-3, 240-pound outside linebacker was limited to just 11 games with seven starts in 2023 and finished with 2.5 sacks, three tackles for loss and seven quarterback hits. This came one year after he picked up 5.5 sacks and three forced fumbles in only seven games (five starts).

Ojulari's strongest season came back in 2021 when he recorded eight sacks and 13 quarterback hits in 17 games (13 starts) as a rookie.

Boogie Basham

Career: 36 G

The Giants traded for Basham at the end of training camp last season. The veteran appeared in 13 games and registered 11 total tackles (five solo). Prior to his arrival in East Rutherford, Basham played in 23 games for the Buffalo Bills, where he was a second-round pick (No. 61) in 2021). The 6-foot-3, 274-pound edge defender had 4.5 sacks, 37 tackles (20 solo), five tackles for loss, eight quarterback hits, one fumble recovery, two passes defensed and an interception across his two seasons with the Bills.

Benton Whitley

Career: 4G

The Giants originally signed Whitley off the Vikings practice squad in late November. He played in three games and had a fumble recovery along with a pass breakup. Whitley also played 26 snaps on special teams. After going undrafted in 2022, Whitley signed with the Los Angeles Rams but never appeared in a game. He went on to spend time with the Kansas City Chiefs (2022) and Vikings (2022-23) before joining the Giants.

The Giants re-signed Whitley last month.

Tomon Fox

Career: 17 G, 1 GS

Fox joined the Giants as an undrafted free agent in 2022. As a rookie, he played in 16 games with one start and finished with a sack, 24 total tackles (15 solo), three tackles for loss and a quarterback hit. Fox played in just one game last season and picked up a solo tackle.

Fox was signed to a reserve/future contract after the conclusion of the season.

Jeremiah Martin

Career: 0 G

After originally being signed to the practice squad towards the end of last season, Martin signed a reserve/future contract once the 2023 campaign was complete. After going undrafted in 2023, he spent time with the Cleveland Browns before being waived in late August. He has yet to appear in an NFL game.

Martin was named first-team All-Pac-12 in 2022 after picking up 8.5 sacks and 11 tackles for loss for the Washington Huskies.


Jihad Ward

Career: 102 G, 35 GS

Ward signed with the Minnesota Vikings after spending the last two seasons with the Giants. In 17 games (nine starts) last season, Ward registered a career-high five sacks to go with 24 tackles (16 solo) and nine quarterback hits. He recorded three sacks and a career-best two forced fumbles and four passes defensed the prior season. The veteran edge defender spent time with five teams from 2016-2021 prior to joining the Giants. Ward was originally a second-round pick (No. 44 overall) by the Oakland Raiders in 2016.

NFL Media analyst Daniel Jeremiah released his updated ranking of the top 50 prospects in the 2024 NFL Draft.


The top five edge defenders in the 2024 draft class, according to's Bucky Brooks are:

  1. Dallas Turner, Alabama
  2. Laiatu Latu, UCLA
  3. Jared Verse, Florida State
  4. Chop Robinson, Penn State
  5. Bralen Trice, Washington

Keep an eye on: Chris Braswell, Alabama

Brooks: "With pass rushers coveted at a premium, the 2024 class should produce a handful of first-round picks with Pro Bowl potential. Turner possesses the first-step quickness, burst and overall athleticism to wreak havoc off the edges as a disruptive force. The Alabama star is a natural pass rusher with the instincts, awareness and hand-to-hand skills to utilize multiple maneuvers to get to the quarterback. Latu is the high-energy pass rusher that every defensive coordinator wants in the "DPR" (designated pass rusher) role. He explodes off the ball with cat-like quickness, but he also displays the strength, power and technique to win with force or finesse. Verse is an explosive, heavy-handed edge defender with a motor that doesn't quit. The Florida State standout excels at turning the corner, utilizing a dazzling array of power and finesse maneuvers to get to the quarterback. Robinson is an athletic freak with the first-step quickness and bend-and-burst skills to create chaos as a sack artist at the next level. His production at Penn State (9.5 sacks over the past two seasons) didn't match his physical tools, but the upside makes him an intriguing option as an early-round selection. Trice is a blue-collar worker on the edges with a rock-solid game built on hustle and technique." analyst Bucky Brooks revealed his final position rankings for the 2024 NFL Draft.


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