Kayvan Thibodaux wants more.
Too many players who get paid to take down opposing quarterbacks on their keister do everything possible to devalue the importance of the pass-rusher on the home run equivalent. They explain that when a player drops the ball in two seconds it is difficult to get it on the ground. Focusing on sacks is very narrow minded, emphasize the guys who aren’t putting up big numbers in that particular statistical category.
Year no. 1 With the Giants, Thibodaux learned all about this. As he prepares for the year number. The 2, silver-tongued outside linebacker isn’t hiding behind any rhetoric that dampens the joy of sacks. He offered a quick breakdown of what he’s focused on this spring to enhance his upcoming season.
“Getting sacks, finishing,” Thibodaux said after a team activity session held in the sun on Wednesday. “There have been times when I had a rush to pass that I didn’t finish. You find out that the guy on the other side of the line is paid a lot of money. They won’t let him touch it. Continuing to sharpen the end of my rush, that third step and making sure I start to finish.
as no. The No. 5 overall pick in the 2022 NFL Draft, Thibodaux began his NFL career carrying a burden of expectation. Instead of running away from it, Thibodaux gravitated towards the attention like a moth to a flame. Camera ready. Microphone ready. He carried himself like a star, even if he didn’t always play like one.
Thibodaux had a sack total set in his mind for his rookie year and although he never revealed that goal, it’s reasonable to assume he had double digits in mind. He missed the first two games due to a hamstring strain and didn’t have a sack in the first three games. He broke his first sack in Week 6 against the Ravens and then went five consecutive games without one. On Thanksgiving, he had one sack in nine games.
He realized that he was not going to vault the bar he had set for himself.
“When you go four or five games without a sack, you start to realize ‘forget that number,'” Thibodaux said. “What can I do just to make a play? Come the Baltimore game, it was like ‘Okay, I’ve got to make a play.’ I didn’t really have time to think about the goals that I had. Have to go for some work now. ,
His play to remember came in Week 13, when Taylor Heinicke’s strip-sack turned in a fumble recovery and his first NFL touchdown in a 20–20 tie with the Commanders. A late closing rush – three sacks in the last five games – gave Thibodaux four sacks in his first season.
This was not the sum total of his contributions. According to NextGenStats, he generated 40 quarterback pressures and had the highest 11.1 quarterback pressure rate among all rookies playing at least 500 snaps. He had 49 total tackles (33 solo), six tackles for loss, two forced fumbles, two fumble recoveries, and 13 quarterback hits.
After the season, defensive coordinator Vink Martindale, who adores Thibodaux, told him he needed to get stronger on his feet and in his core. The 6-foot-5 Thibodaux stays listed at 258 pounds and his legs are a toothpick compared to some of his beefier teammates. He said his lower body would never look bigger, but “I’m as strong as anybody else when it comes to squats, when it comes to lifting and things like that.”
During last year’s pre-draft evaluation, the Giants had serious concerns about Thibodaux’s makeup and drive, and actually asked him a pointed question in an interview: Would you be able to handle the scrutiny and criticism if you went without a sack? Let’s play five games?
As a rookie, he proved that he would not tank in the midst of adversity.
Still, the Giants need more from Thibodaux. Consider that four of his sacks came on 409 pass-rush snaps, according to Pro Football Focus. Aziz Ozulari, who endured an injury-riddled season, had only 5.5 sacks in 140 pass rush snaps. Ozulari needs to stay healthy and Thibodaux should take the next step as a closer.
Thibodaux doesn’t need to set a sack target for this second season. It didn’t turn out so well the first time.
“I had a number last year, and I learned that the season is so long that you have to do it game by game,” he said. “If I can make impressive plays like I can and keep winning, I mean, nobody will ever remember. [the sack total], Correct? As long as we keep winning, as long as I keep playing well, playing for my teammates, I think I’ll be good.
Good has a nice ring to it. The Giants want a lot more from Thibodaux.