The New York Giants selected Oregon edge rusher Kayvon Thibodeaux with the fifth overall pick in the 2022 NFL draft to help bolster their pass rush.
So far, the jury is still out on whether that pick was the right one.
The Giants have recorded no sacks throughout two games this season and have just seven QB hits, four of which have come from nose tackle Dexter Lawrence. Thibodeaux has one.
What is happening with the Giants’ pass rush? More specifically, why isn’t Thibodeaux getting home? Part of it is scheme-related. Defensive coordinator Wink Martindale could be undercutting the second-year pro’s strength.
Kayvon Thibodeaux was asked to drop into coverage on 9 of 34 passing plays v. the Cardinals (26%).
— Talkin’ Giants (@TalkinGiants) September 19, 2023
During the Giants’ 31-28 win in Arizona on Sunday, Thibodeaux was spotted sitting on the opposite end of the bench from his teammates during the team’s historic comeback. He also seemed disengaged during an intense sideline speech, sitting down before his teammates even broke the huddle.
Thibodeaux insists he was simply praying and meditating.
“The only person I look to is God, right? So, I’m sitting in that moment, and I’m praying, and I’m kind of, I guess you would say meditating and visualizing what we’re going to do as a team to go out there. For me, it’s kind of like there are too many people that wake up and want to put negativity out there,” Thibodeaux told reporters on Tuesday. “I think it’s more of a visualization and a meditation thing that, hopefully, I don’t ever have to answer something like that in the future.”
Not everyone is buying Thibodeaux’s explanation hook, line, and sinker.
On his radio show on WFAN this week, prior to Kayvon’s comments, former Giant great Tiki Barber had this to say about Thibodeaux:
“He’s not being used like he wants to be used,” Tiki said. “Pin your ears back and go get the quarterback. That’s not what Wink’s defense asks you to do.
“Not one guy is going to eat, and Kayvon has to realize that. Maybe this isn’t the right system for a guy who wants to get 15-20 sacks a season. It doesn’t fit what he wants to be.”
Thibodeaux could be a victim of the scheme but he’s also not taking charge of the things he can control. At times, he’s swallowed up when trying to bullrush blockers. At other times, he’s a tad slow to the quarterback and it’s also been mentioned that he has had some difficulty shedding blockers.
He’s also been guilty of overplaying the run as a result of his hard-charging pass rush.
The #Giants struggled to get pressure even in the most obvious pass spots (3rd and 7 here) against a below-average OL in Week 2. It’s troubling.
Lining up Kayvon Thibodeaux so wide works against them on this one, setting up an easy block for the big slot. Need Ojulari back pic.twitter.com/7oEbfH9wml
— Dan Schneier (@DanSchneierNFL) September 19, 2023
Thibodeaux also struggled in shedding blocks against the Cardinals. He was stonewalled by tight end Zach Ertz on a number of occasions.
Despite it all, Thibodeaux insists he’s a team player and just doing what he’s asked. He rejects any “narratives” that are being created about him.
“There are a lot of people who want the game and want to coach, and they want to create narratives. But as long as I stick to the game plan, and my coaches and my team are happy with what I’m able to do, whether it be drop back, whether it be hold the edge, whatever it may be – I’m just happy to contribute,” he said.
Whether Thibodeaux is frustrated or not, he’s got to start having a great overall impact.