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Giants' Brian Burns on trio with Kayvon Thibodeaux, Dexter Lawrence: Teams have to 'pick their poison'

New Giants pass rusher Brian Burns fielded questions from the softball diamond on Saturday about his upcoming season with New York.

Many of those inquiries for Burns, who joined the Giants in March on a five-year, $150 million deal to tie the bow on a trade from the Carolina Panthers, revolved around the pass-rushing trio he now finds himself a part of alongside fellow edge Kayvon Thibodeaux and defensive tackle Dexter Lawrence -- a group he's hopeful becomes the defensive foundation in New York for the foreseeable future.

"That is soon to be found out," Burns said at the Dexter Lawrence Charity Softball Game when asked what the three are capable of together. "As of right now we're just trying to get better every day. With our combined talents, I think the sky's the limit. We can really do anything. And we're all young, so hopefully this is years to come."

Burns and Lawrence, both 26, went back-to-back in the 2019 NFL Draft at No. 16 and 17 overall, respectively. Teammates for the first time heading into their sixth NFL seasons, they've both made two Pro Bowls.

The 23-year-old Thibodeaux has yet to earn such an honor but has proven plenty dangerous in his own right during his first two years in the league. He placed fourth in Defensive Rookie of the Year voting in 2022 and led the Giants in sacks last season with 11.5. He took that mantle from Lawrence, who paced the team with a career-high 7.5 sacks the campaign prior.

Burns, meanwhile, has never totaled fewer than 7.5 sacks in a season. He now has 46 in his career, having led Carolina during three of his five years there. That includes 2023, when his eight sacks accounted for nearly 30% of the Panthers' league-worst output of 27.

The Giants didn't fare much better. They placed 29th with 34 sacks, but there's certainly hope that combining these three players will spread a positive effect across New York's pass rush as a whole. Having certified playmakers on both edges with a DT in the middle who can swallow blocks and break through them for pressure in equal measure means something is bound to give.

"He commands a lot," Burns said of Lawrence. "I'm excited for it because I know they really have to key in on him, and also having somebody opposite of me, they're pretty much going to have to pick their poison on who they're going to key or slide to. With Dex demanding so much attention and Kayvon also demanding attention, it's going to free us up a lot."

Burns also told reporters he has been "learning the history" of the Giants, which includes a legacy of defensive excellence from Lawrence Taylor and the Big Blue Wrecking Crew to Michael Strahan leading the way later in the 1990s and 2000s. Lately, though, there's been a dearth of pass-rushing production.

New York has produced just one top-10 sack season in the last decade -- 2014.

That's a big reason why the Giants made Burns their big-ticket addition this offseason and gave him a lucrative contract. Burns had been fighting for better pay and extra security for over a year with the Panthers, who preferred he play on his fifth-year option in 2023 rather than an extension and then balked again at a long-term commitment by franchise tagging him a couple days before shipping him out of town.

He didn't expect the trade that provided him with both his long-awaited pay day and likely the finest support system of pass rushers he's seen to date in his career.

"I was shocked," Burns said. "It was a pleasant surprise, but I was excited for the change."

If he can reward the Giants' faith by helping get Big Blue's crew back to its wrecking ways, perhaps New York can deliver another surprise by turning things around in 2024.

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