In the 2022 NFL draft, the New York Giants chose Oregon pass rusher Kayvon Thibodeaux with the 5th overall selection, betting on his boundless potential.
Despite being a projected No. 1 pick for quite some time, injuries and inconsistencies threatened to cloud his prospects. Speculations regarding his effort in certain plays and issues communicating with coaches also circulated pre-draft. Nevertheless, Thibodeaux swiftly debunked these theories with his outstanding performance in his rookie season.
From Questionable Past to Promising Future
Thibodeaux has demonstrated remarkable commitment and exuberance on the field, marking him as a model NFL player. As a rookie, he engaged in 859 total snaps, achieving 45 total pressures, including 4.0 sacks, 12 quarterback hits, and 29 hurries. His record also includes 45 tackles, 29 stops, and a 6.8% missed tackle rate.
In recognition of his late-game heroics, Thibodeaux earned the nickname “the closer.” His fourth-quarter performances often tipped the scale in the Giants’ favor, securing crucial wins against strong opponents.
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Guidance from a Giants Legend: Michael Strahan
Giants icon Michael Strahan has been mentoring Thibodeaux since his Oregon days. Strahan, a big fan of the 22-year-old, commends Thibodeaux’s potential in the NFL, particularly his pressure rate and sack numbers. Having recorded only one sack as a rookie in 1993, Strahan sees Thibodeaux as a player already surpassing him, influencing the game positively at a young age.
“He came in as a better player than me,’’ Strahan said Monday, via the New York Post. “He came in with a better understanding of the game of football than I did. Obviously, because he had a lot more sacks in his rookie year than I had in mine.’’
A Leap in Development and Expectations
With the Giants in the throes of a rebuild, Thibodeaux is anticipated to make significant developmental strides in 2023. Defensive coordinator Wink Martindale has tasked him with enhancing his lower body and core strength, which would fortify his edge sealing in the run game and diversify his pass rush maneuvers.
“This is a guy I know is gonna be a great player for the Giants,’’ Strahan said. “I know he has the worth ethic, he has the desire and as much as you say ‘He’s outgoing, he talks, he does this,’ the guy really works at it, and that’s what I respect about him. It’s not like he’s just saying it and going off raw talent and ability. He’s saying it because he believes it. Because he puts in the work to make it happen.’’
The Giants boast an impressive defensive front line, with Thibodeaux, Dexter Lawrence, Leonard Williams, and Azeez Ojulari. The combination of these four, granted they stay fit, has immense potential to deliver stunning performances in the upcoming season.