Are the Giants misusing Kayvon Thibodeaux?

kayvon thibodeaux, new york giants, brian daboll
New York Giants defensive end Kayvon Thibodeaux (5) and head coach Brian Daboll shake hands before the Giants take on the Dallas Cowboys at MetLife Stadium on Monday, Sept. 26, 2022. Nfl Ny Giants Vs Dallas Cowboys Cowboys At Giants

New York Giants second-year pass-rusher Kayvon Thibodeaux has been a subject of controversy this week following the team’s improbable Week 2 victory. Thibodeaux has yet to record a sack through the first two games of the season despite entering the year with lofty expectations.

As the Giants wait for Thibodeaux’s breakout game, the fans are questioning why it hasn’t happened yet. But taking a deeper look at the stats may reveal that the Giants’ misusage of Thibodeaux is to blame for his lack of production.

Kayvon Thibodeaux is struggling to get after the quarterback

Through two games, Thibodeaux has struggled to get after the quarterback. He has totaled just four combined tackles and one QB hit so far this season and has yet to record his first sack. According to Pro Football Focus, Thibodeaux has also generated just two pressures, both coming in Week 2 against the Arizona Cardinals.

Thibodeaux’s lack of production has sparked conversations among fans. Some fans are starting to label Thibodeaux a “bust” while others feel like the Giants’ coaching staff is failing the young pass-rusher more than he is failing his team.

Are the Giants misusing Thibodeaux?

Defensive coordinator Wink Martindale is known across the league as arguably the most aggressive defensive coordinator in the NFL. Martindale sends extra blitzers at the highest rate in the league and is constantly coming up with creative ways to trick opposing offenses. But what happens when Martindale gets a little too overambitious, and, has that happened with his usage of Thibodeaux?

Thibodeaux was on the field for 34 passing plays in Week 2. He dropped back into coverage on nine (26%) of those plays. The Giants’ best pass-rusher was tasked with dropping into coverage on a quarter of his pass-rushing opportunities.

This decision by Martindale to utilize Thibodeaux in coverage is causing the second-year player to falter in his pass-rushing productivity.

Instead of playing as an edge-rushing defensive end with his hand in the dirt, Thibodeaux does feature as an edge-rushing outside linebacker in Martindale’s base 3-4 defensive scheme. Because of this, he does need to drop back into coverage on occasion. But 26% of Thibodeaux’s snaps being played in coverage feels like a staggering amount that is preventing the 22-year-old from finding his rhythm as a pass-rusher.

Can Thibodeaux get out of this rut?

The pressure is building on Thibodeaux to turn things around quickly. As the fifth overall pick in last year’s draft, Thibodeaux plays with high expectations. He flashed his elite potential as a rookie, generating 40 pressures and four sacks in 14 games. But those flashes are not enough to satisfy Giants fans or the New York media.

Thibodeaux has gone through dry spells before. As a rookie last season, it took him four games before he recorded his first sack. But Thibodeaux got better as the season went on and finished the year by recording a sack in three of his final five games.

It’s only a matter of time before Thibodeaux gets his first sack of the season, but it’s unlikely to come soon if the Giants keep dropping him back into coverage so frequently. Thibodeaux is a talented pass-rusher, but he needs more opportunities to get after the quarterback. It’s on Martindale and the Giants’ coaching staff to put Thibodeaux in a position to make plays and impact the game as one of the league’s premier, up-and-coming pass-rushers.