2022 Giants training camp preview: Linebackers

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The New York Giants are entering a new era on defense with incoming coordinator Wink Martindale. The objective is to creatively find ways to get to the quarterback via pressure packages and blitzes.

All three levels of the defense will participate but it will the linebackers that the lead the way this year behind two new unit coaches — John Egorugwu (outside) and Drew Wilkins (inside).

Here’s a quick roundup of the linebackers heading into camp.

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Blake Martinez

AP Photo/Bill Kostroun

It all begins with Blake Martinez, one of the league’s top tacklers and the defensive captain. Martinez’s season ended early last year after tearing his ACL in Week 3 and missing the remainder of the season.

Martinez, when healthy, will wear the headset and call the defensive signals while playing nearly every snap on the inside. He is in the third year of a three-year, $30 million deal and it still remains to be seen if Martindale leans as heavily on him as his predecessor, Patrick Graham, did.

Tae Crowder

AP Photo/Corey Sipkin

Tae Crowder, the former Mr. Irrelevant, stepped up in the middle after Martinez’s injury and led the club with 130 total tackles. He also had two picks, defensed six passes, forced one fumble and recovered another.

There should be some playing time for the former Georgia star in Martindale’s scheme although it may be on a rotational basis as the unit has changed.

Azeez Ojulari

Mike Stobe/Getty Images

Azeez Ojulari had a solid rookie season in 2021, setting a franchise record for sacks by a rookie with 8.0. He also added 13 quarterback hits and 49 total tackles.

Ojulari should improve on those numbers this year with some added muscle to help him combat offensive linemen better. He has the ability to become not only a strong pass rusher but an excellent all around linebacker.

Other outside linebackers

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The Giants used the fifth overall selection in this year’s NFL draft on Oregon’s Kayvon Thibodeaux. If he is as good as advertised, they won’t have to worry much about their pass rush anymore. As always, we’ll spare any predictions until we see him in action.

Also in the mix will be Elerson Smith, Jihad Ward, Oshane Ximines, Quincy Roche, Niko Lalos and rookie Tomon Fox — a favorite of Lawrence Taylor.

Not all of those will make the roster and it will be interesting to see in camp which ones will fit best in Martindale’s scheme.

Other inside linebackers

AP Photo/Bill Kostroun

The Giants drafted two very interesting prospects in Micah McFadden of Indiana and Cincinnati’s Darrian Beavers. They will see plenty of action in camp.

Returning are Carter Coughlin and Cam Brown, who have been backups and special teamers the past few years.

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