The Giants.com crew is presented with four statements and must decide whether they are Fact or Fiction.
Azeez Ojulari will have more sacks than he did when he set the franchise rookie record of eight in 2021
Dan Salomone: Fact – The encouraging part of Ojulari's numbers last year is they were spread out. He had at least a half-sack in seven separate games, with only one outing where he recorded multiple sacks. So, it's not like he bunched them up in two or three games and was invisible in the others. The arrival of Kayvon Thibodeaux on the other side – not mention Wink Martindale's aggressive scheme – should help Ojulari flourish in his sophomore season.
Lance Medow: Fiction – Last season, Ojulari collected eight sacks but he had only 2.5 over the final 10 games. Although sacks tend to come in bunches, you can never assume a player's total from one season will be guaranteed the next. Case in point, Leonard Williams recorded his first career double-digit sack season (11.5) in 2020 but notched only 6.5 last season. And don't overlook the fact that in Wink Martindale's four seasons as the Ravens defensive coordinator, no player ever had more than 9.5 sacks in one season - and that figure only happened once. Baltimore's sacks were mainly spread out across the board and that's a product of a variety of different players used through blitzing.
Matt Citak: Fact – Ojulari's eight sacks as a rookie led the team in 2021. This season, Ojulari and Kayvon Thibodeaux will become the most talented edge combination the Giants have had since Osi Umenyiora and Jason Pierre-Paul. The presence of Thibodeaux, along with talented interior linemen Leonard Williams and Dexter Lawrence, will make it very difficult for teams to double-team Ojulari. Double-digit sacks are certainly a possibility for the second-year linebacker from Georgia.
Safety Julian Love is the most underrated player on the Giants
Dan Salomone: Fact – He's a coach's dream. He provides versatility and will do whatever is asked of him with a smile on his face - it applies to special teams and the defense, where the former fourth-round pick has a chance for a larger role following the departures of Logan Ryan and Jabrill Peppers.
Lance Medow: Fact – In a very young secondary, Love is actually considered a seasoned veteran as he's entering his fourth NFL season – only Adoree Jackson and Maurice Canady have been in the league longer. Love has the versatility to play corner and safety, which has proven to be extremely valuable in previous seasons given injuries to the secondary. When you take into consideration his experience, skills, and the fact that he was a fourth-round pick, you're not going to find a more underrated player in the secondary and you'd be hard pressed to put him behind several other players on the roster.
Matt Citak: Fiction – Love has shown flashes of his potential over his first three seasons, and a chance to possibly start more than six games for the first time in his career could lead to a jump for the young safety. But when it comes to underrated and underappreciated players on the Giants, it's hard not to think of Adoree' Jackson. Jackson was one of the team's big free agent signings last off-season, and after a little bit of a bumpy start to the schedule, the corner stepped up as the season wore on. Jackson finished the year with an 80.9 coverage grade from PFF, the fourth-highest among cornerbacks, and had eight pass breakups in 13 games. Jackson has become the team's No. 1 corner, so a repeat performance this season would go a long way in helping the Giants reach their potential in 2022.
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The Giants will have a rookie make the Pro Bowl this season
Dan Salomone: Fact – With two picks in the Top 10 for the first time in team history, the Giants have a good shot at one. Last year, six rookies made the Pro Bowl: quarterback Mac Jones (Patriots), running back Najee Harris (Steelers), wide receiver Ja'Marr Chase (Bengals), linebacker Micah Parsons (Cowboys), tight end Kyle Pitts (Falcons), and offensive tackle Rashawn Slater (Chargers).
Lance Medow: Fiction – The last time a Giants' rookie made the Pro Bowl was 2018, when Saquon Barkley received the nod. With two first-round picks this year, that increases the team's chances; but even if Kayvon Thibodeaux or Evan Neal have an impressive campaign, you have to consider the competition at their positions. Last year, the NFC's three tackles were Trent Williams of the Niners, Tampa Bay's Tristan Wirfs and Tyron Smith of the Cowboys and the outside linebackers were the Cardinals' Chandler Jones, Robert Quinn of the Bears and the Bucs' Shaq Barrett. Jones is the only player who is no longer in the conference; and notice none of the six players were rookies.
Matt Citak: Fact – The 2022 Pro Bowl included six rookies: OT Rashawn Slater, WR Ja'Marr Chase, LB Micah Parsons, QB Mac Jones, TE Kyle Pitts and RB Najee Harris. All of them were first-round selections in the 2021 NFL Draft, and five of the six were taken in the first half of the round. Well, the Giants had two picks in the top seven in last month's draft, and walked away with two Day 1 starters in Kayvon Thibodeaux and Evan Neal. It's not unrealistic in the slightest that one, if not both, of them will participate in the 2023 Pro Bowl in Las Vegas.
The NFC East is the most open division in the NFL
Dan Salomone: Fact – This is a good time to use one of the craziest active streaks in sports: There has not been a repeat champion in the NFC East since the Eagles won four in a row from 2001-04. The Giants, Commanders, and Eagles will try to keep it going for another year while dethrowning the Cowboys.
Lance Medow: Fiction – Although the turnover rate in the NFC East with respect to the division winner has been unmatched over the past two decades, the Cowboys and Eagles have fewer questions than the Commanders and Giants; so it's fair to say the former two teams have a leg up on the latter two. So let's go with the AFC North or AFC West as the most open divisions - the North getting the slight edge because of Kansas City's recent run. In the North, you can make a case for all four teams based on recent history. The Bengals are coming off a Super Bowl appearance, the Ravens and Steelers have been consistent contenders and the Browns, a 2020 playoff team, just acquired Deshaun Watson.
Matt Citak: Fiction – There are two divisions that are the most open, and neither are in the NFC. In the AFC North, you have the reigning AFC Champion Bengals, the Deshaun Watson-led Browns, former MVP Lamar Jackson's Ravens, and the consistent Steelers with Mike Tomlin at the helm. Then, there's the AFC West, where the Chiefs, Chargers, Broncos and Raiders each went out and made some key additions during the off-season. Both of these AFC divisions are truly up for grabs, and according to the national pundits, each of their win total odds are around the same.
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