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Fact or Fiction: Past, present & future breakout players


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

The Giants' 2022 breakout player was wide receiver Isaiah Hodgins

John Schmeelk: Fiction – Let's go with Dexter Lawrence. Hodgins certainly came out of nowhere and was more productive than he ever has been in his NFL career, but you simply cannot ignore the jump Lawrence made from a good defensive tackle to the most dominant nose tackle in football. He is one of the top three defensive tackles in the league and a second-team All-Pro.

Dan Salomone: Fact – There are eight players in Giants history who have recorded both 100 receiving yards and one receiving touchdown in a postseason game. Isaiah Hodgins, who joined the team on Nov. 2, is one of them. That's why the Giants locked him up before he was set to become an exclusive rights free agent.

Lance Medow: Fiction – Isaiah Hodgins put together a very impressive season once he arrived in early November, but it's the latter why you wouldn't label him the breakout player of the year. It's not just that he wasn't with the team the entire campaign, but also the fact he wasn't on the roster in 2021. If you're a breakout player, you have to show a significant jump from one season to another while remaining on the same team. That's why Dexter Lawrence is the runaway winner. He had a career year across the board in his fourth season and led the Giants in sacks (7.5) and quarterback hits (28). To put things in perspective, he nearly surpassed his totals from the first three seasons in each category.

Matt Citak: Fiction – Isaiah Hodgins was probably the team's most unexpected breakout player due to his arrival midway through the season. However, the biggest breakout player of 2022 has to be either Dexter Lawrence or Andrew Thomas. Both players took monumental steps in their development this past season and were named second-team All-Pro, which makes them the team's two breakout players.

The Giants' breakout player next year will be outside linebacker Kayvon Thibodeaux

John Schmeelk: Fiction – Let's go with Wan'Dale Robinson. This is a risk given he is coming off of an ACL injury, but he is going to be 70-catch player as the Giants' primary slot receiver next season. You could think about going with Evan Neal, but often times development can be a three-year process for offensive linemen. Darrian Beavers was also an option here but his ACL injury and the fact he was a Day 3 pick can scare one away. Thibodeaux already took a bit of a leap the second half of the season, and it is difficult for a player to be a double-digit sack guy in Wink Martindale's scheme.

Dan Salomone: Fact – As defensive coordinator Wink Martindale says, the Giants always look to open a can of "whoop a—" and Kayvon Thibodeaux is the can opener. The fifth overall pick primed the pump with some breakout plays (see: Ravens and Commanders games) as a rookie, and he'll plan to take that next step in Year 2.

Lance Medow: Fiction – There are two strong candidates for this label. Kayvon Thibodeaux is certainly one after several flashes during his rookie campaign but don't overlook fellow first-year player Wan'Dale Robinson. The receiver had his season cut short in Week 11 when he tore his ACL following his first career 100-yard game. Robinson also missed four games earlier in the season due to a knee injury. He's barely scratched the surface of his potential, so you can lean toward him having a breakout campaign, especially since the opportunities will be there in the receiving corps.

Matt Citak: Fact – Kayvon Thibodeaux's rookie campaign was put on hold due to a knee injury suffered during the second preseason game. While the No. 5 overall pick was back on the field by Week 3, it took him some time to really get going. Despite the injury, Thibodeaux still led all qualifying rookies in pass rush win rate at 17.9 percent, according to ESPN. The rookie got better and better as the season progressed, so with a full offseason and training camp to get ready for 2023, the sky is the limit for the outside linebacker.

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The player you're most interested to see return from injury is wide receiver Wan'Dale Robinson

John Schmeelk: Fiction – Wan'Dale Robinson may be the next breakout player, so let's go with Darrian Beavers here. It seemed like he was going to be the team's MIKE linebacker to start the season before he tore his ACL. He has the size and instincts to play the position. The organizations sees him as part of the answer at the position, but is he THE answer? Or is he the second inside/off-ball linebacker to someone else they bring in during the off-season?

Dan Salomone: Fact – He was one of the players who popped throughout the last off-season before injuries hampered his growth in the regular season. The Giants will need him to get back on track in the receivers room.

Lance Medow: Fact – You received a very small taste of what Wan'Dale Robinson could potentially provide this offense in 2021 because he only suited up for six games. But based on his versatility in college and his strong showing against the Lions, how could you not be intrigued by what he could potentially showcase next season?

Matt Citak: Fiction – Wan'Dale Robinson showed what he can bring to the offense and then his rookie season was derailed by a torn ACL. In fact. he was in the midst of his best game with nine receptions for 100 yards before suffering the season-ending injury. However, the player coming off an injury of most interest will be linebacker Darrian Beavers. The sixth-round pick out of Cincinnati was having a very impressive rookie training camp before he tore his ACL during the second preseason game. Beavers was in competition for one of the starting inside linebacker positions before the injury, and should be right there in the mix again in 2023. Coming in a close second to watch is wide receiver Collin Johnson, who was also a standout in training camp before suffering a season-ending Achilles injury.

Dexter Lawrence had the most dominant defensive season by a Giant since Jason Pierre-Paul in 2011

John Schmeelk: Fact – The sack numbers might not show it, but all anyone has to do is watch the games or turn on the tape to see how dominant Dexter Lawrence was this year. Centers couldn't handle his power, length or quickness him when he was lined up at nose tackle. He dominated guards with power at the three-technique spot. He was great against the run and the pass. He was virtually un-blockable. Lawrence is a Top-3 defensive tackle in football and it was a pleasure watching him this season.

Dan Salomone: Fiction – Colts guard Quenton Nelson might say "fact" here (LOL), but Landon Collins' 2016 performance was just as dominant. He was a game-changer that season. Also, there's another campaign that gets forgotten. Stevie Brown set the Giants' record with 307 interception return yards (fourth-most in NFL history) on eight picks in 2012.

Lance Medow: Fiction – You don't have to go back to 2011 to find some other impressive defensive performances, highlighted by Markus Golden in 2019. He led the Giants that year with 10 sacks, 27 quarterback hits and 13 tackles for loss. He also returned a fumble 42 yards for a score. Golden recorded several disruptive plays and constantly made his presence felt. He tends to get overlooked because of the team's record that year and the fact it coincided with Daniel Jones' rookie campaign.

Matt Citak: Fiction – Dexter Lawrence's 2022 campaign was likely the most dominant in the last few years. But if you're going back a decade, the honor belongs to Landon Collins in 2016. The safety put up historic numbers that season, totaling 125 tackles (100 solo), five interceptions, 13 PD and four sacks. He earned an All-Pro selection while finishing third in the AP Defensive Player of the Year voting. He finished as the first player in NFL history with 100+ solo tackles, 2+ sacks, 5+ interceptions and 12+ pass breakups, which led to him being named the NFC Defensive Player of the Year at the 101 Awards.

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