Some of the biggest questions surrounding now-New York Giants edge rusher Kayvon Thibodeaux ahead of the 2022 NFL Draft had to do with his competitive motor.
Concerns surfaced around the league questioning whether the Oregon star played with consistently high effort on every play. At the NFL Scouting Combine in March, Thibodeaux mentioned the Giants specifically as a team that gave him a hard time about how he’d handle adversity at the NFL level.
How would he handle not having immediate success? Would he still play with high effort if things weren’t going his way? Would he be okay with not being the team’s star player in his rookie year?
Clearly, however he answered those questions was enough for the Giants’ brass as they went on to draft Thibodeaux with their very first selection and fifth overall pick. Since then, the pick has been lauded as one of the best first-round selections in this year’s draft.
New York needed an edge rusher badly, and Thibodeaux not only fills that need but joins the Giants as a perfect fit in new Defensive Coordinator Wink Martindale’s (presumably) blitz-heavy defense.
Last weekend, we got our first look at Thibodeaux with his new team during the Giants’ rookie minicamp. Though there aren’t too many takeaways from an athleticism or live plays standpoint, he talked to reporters after practice and is saying all the right things early.
One of the biggest questions he was asked related heavily to his commitment to football and how willing a participant he was going to be play-by-play, season-by-season.
During the NFL Combine, the Giants’ staff asked Thibodeaux about a time in eighth grade in which he almost quit playing football entirely. When asked again about the occasion at minicamp, he said the thought of quitting was not in frustration, as if he were on the field and quit during practice or a game.
Instead, the thoughts of quitting were rooted in self-doubt and the pressure he put on himself to perform at a high level. Thibodeaux mentioned knowing the odds were not in his favor to be able to play football as a pro, so he considered taking a year off to play basketball instead.
Now, it seems abundantly clear that he’s very committed to playing football.
Thibodeaux mentioned to reporters he’s been watching Ravens film from their time with Martindale as their defensive coordinator to get a sense of what to expect. He also said he’s putting in work to get in shape—both physically, through workouts and practice, and mentally, by studying the playbook—to catch up with the other guys on the roster.
A clear theme of Thibodeaux’s time talking to reporters in minicamp is that he isn’t satisfied with where he is now.
Despite all of the outside noise and concerns that the Oregon product would mail it in and not give the requisite effort, his actions suggest that he’s going to be a ready and willing participant all season. He’s not satisfied just having made it to the pros, he’s studying the playbook, making sure he understands how he fits in the Giants’ defense and always striving to get better.
Now that he’s put many of the personality questions to rest, Thibodeaux should be able to focus wholly on balling out in practice as the preseason continues.
Day one of the Giants’ OTAs was on Monday, so we’ll start to hear more about Thibodeaux’s on-field performance in the next few weeks. If he plays up to the level he did in college and with the effort he seems to be putting in early at the pro level, Thibodeaux will be a star on the New York defense.
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