The Giants managed to win their first two games without both their starting outside linebackers. They will have an improved defensive lineup against the Cowboys on Monday night.
Azeez Ojulari and No. 5 overall pick Kayvon Thibodeaux are active for the Giants. This comes after Thibodeaux managed three limited practices leading up to the NFC East matchup. An MCL sprain sustained during the preseason led to Thibodeaux not beginning his Giants regular-season run on time. Leonard Williams, who suffered an MCL sprain in Week 2, is inactive.
A year ago, Thibodeaux was viewed as a possible No. 1 overall pick. The Oregon pass rusher’s stock dipped slightly during the pre-draft period, leading to rumors he could endure a bit of a draft-night fall. The Giants prevented that from happening, selecting him with the first of their two first-round choices. The Thibodeaux-Ojulari pairing will be, investment-wise, easily the team’s top edge-rushing duo since Jason Pierre-Paul and Olivier Vernon.
After trading JPP in 2018 and Vernon in 2019, the Giants took an unusually minimalistic approach at this premium position. The team passed on using premium draft capital on the spot in 2019 or 2020, despite an apparent glaring need, and saw its edge production suffer during Markus Golden‘s abbreviated 2020 slate (before an in-season trade sent him back to Arizona). Ojulari, however, made an impact as a rookie second-rounder last season, registering eight sacks. Ojulari, who missed time with a calf injury, will now team with one of the highest-profile defensive investments in Giants history.
Thibodeaux, who will not turn 22 until December, posted 19 sacks in three Ducks seasons. Attitude- and work ethic-based concerns led to the slight draft drop, below edges Travon Walker and Aidan Hutchinson. The 6-foot-5 outside linebacker will have a chance to prove himself as a pro beginning in a nationally televised spot. The Giants had used former third-round pick Oshane Ximines and ex-Don Martindale Ravens charge Jihad Ward as their edge starters over the first two weeks.