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Kayvon Thibodeaux Giants
NFL

Kayvon Thibodeaux Could Be On Verge Of Major Breakout

  • Jack McKessy
  • December 8, 2022
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If you want to get a good sense of how New York Giants’ edge rusher Kayvon Thibodeaux’s rookie season is going, his box score isn’t necessarily the best place to start. The production numbers haven’t been there so far this season, but there’s good reason to believe they’ll start showing up soon.

After missing the first two weeks of the season with a knee injury suffered in the preseason, Thibodeaux returned in Week 3 and started every game since, playing 78% of the team’s defensive snaps. But in 10 games so far this season, the only stats he has to show for it are two sacks, three pass deflections, a fumble recovery, and a tackle for a loss. That’s not a lot of statistical production for the fifth overall pick in the 2022 NFL Draft, especially considering that fellow top edge rusher Aidan Hutchinson is up to six sacks, four tackles for a loss, two interceptions, and a fumble recovery of his own in Detroit.

If you look past the statistical production and lack of sacks, there are still reasons for the Giants to be excited about what Thibodeaux has done this season. Among them is his ability to record pressures, even if it doesn’t always mean finishing the job with a sack. Over the last couple of weeks especially, the rookie edge rusher has done well to create disruption up front.

Though he didn’t record a sack against the Dallas Cowboys in the Giants’ Thanksgiving Day matchup in Week 12, Thibodeaux did record six total pressures. On five different occasions, he managed to get to quarterback Dak Prescott just after the throw, including a play that (probably) should have been called back for holding.

The no-call was unfortunate from a production standpoint, sure, but the effort that Thibodeaux put in on that rep is notable. The ability to maintain a high motor even when he gets frustrated was one of the biggest questions about the Oregon product heading into the 2022 NFL Draft, so to see him stick with plays like that is enough to put most doubts about his effort to rest.

Still, he seemed disappointed, mentioning “leaving some rushes out there,” after the Cowboys game. Even without the sack production though, Thibodeaux’s pressures made a real impact on the game. The rookie forced Prescott into some hurried throws under pressure that led to some big incompletions throughout the course of the game. Though it’s a popular stat, his game against the Cowboys proved that sacks aren’t the only way for edge rushers like him to make an impact.

The good news for Thibodeaux and the Giants one week later came when fellow edge rusher Azeez Ojulari returned to action after missing the previous seven games with a calf injury. As Ojulari immediately made an impact in his return, it started to open things up for Thibodeaux, who was no longer the sole focal point of opponents’ offensive lines. So against a Washington Commanders offensive line that’s been struggling as of late, the rookie was able to put together another solid performance in Week 13. He was explosive off of the snap all game, making a couple of big plays in the end, including his second career sack.

Though part of the reason he was able to get to quarterback Taylor Heinicke was a miscommunication on the offensive line, the play highlighted how explosive and fast Thibodeaux really is. Once the left tackle realized he had messed up, it was far too late. The rookie was long gone.

Thibodeaux may have just a couple of sacks so far this season but really has been playing well once you look past the box score. Now that Ojulari is back on the field and healthy, there’s a good chance it will give the rookie even more opportunities to shine down the home stretch of the 2022 season. The Giants, who are currently on the playoff bubble, will need him to continue to step up to keep those playoff hopes alive.

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Jack McKessy