The Giants need more out of this former first-round pick

Arizona Cardinals quarterback Joshua Dobbs (9) is pressured by New York Giants linebacker Kayvon Thibodeaux (5) as he throws during the second half at State Farm Stadium
Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Giants managed to pull off an unforgettable upset win over the Arizona Cardinals on Sunday. As the Giants celebrate this historic victory, one question is lingering on everyone’s mind: “Where is Kayvon Thibodeaux?”

Kayvon Thibodeaux’s 2023 season is off to a slow start

Since being selected as the fifth overall pick in the 2022 draft, Thibodeaux has carried high expectations with him as fans envision him as a defensive difference-maker with elite potential. However, Thibodeaux’s performance in the first two weeks of this season has been lackluster, to say the least.

In Week 1 against the Cowboys, Thibodeaux recorded just four tackles (one solo), making little impact as a pass rusher in the disappointing defeat. Part of the blame for this poor showing could be attributed to Defensive Coordinator Wink Martindale’s decision to continuously drop him into coverage. Thibodeaux is known for his prowess as an every-down edge rusher, and dropping him into coverage puts him into a position that doesn’t fully maximize his skillset.

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Thibodeaux disappears in Week 2

In Week 2 against the Arizona Cardinals, Thibodeaux struggled to make an impact yet again. With fellow edge rusher Azeez Ojulari out, the Giants needed their fifth-overall pick in last year’s draft to step up.

Thibodeaux had a prime opportunity to exploit a weak Cardinals offensive line on Sunday. Before the game, he had one of the highest chances among all pass-rushers to record a sack (41.7%). He didn’t.

Despite being double-teamed early in the game, he had ample opportunities to showcase his ability but failed to generate any organic pressure. Thibodeaux recorded zero sacks and zero tackles, ending the game with one late QB hit, and that is all.

The Giants need Thibodeaux to start showing up in big moments again

Thibodeaux flashed glimpses of his potential throughout his rookie season and has proved he can make big plays. Despite only recording four sacks, he boasted an impressive 18% pass rush win rate, ranking 15th among all defenders as a rookie.

In the Giants’ win over the Baltimore Ravens in Week 6 of the 2022 season, it was Thibodeaux’s fourth-quarter strip-sack on Lamar Jackson that changed the course of the game, increasing the Giants’ odds of winning from 17% to an astonishing 99%. This game-winning play demonstrated Thibodeaux’s elite potential as a game-breaking edge rusher.

Similarly, Thibodeaux’s performance against the Washington Commanders in Week 14 showcased his versatility. He ended that game with 12 total tackles, one sack, a forced fumble, a fumble recovery, and a touchdown. Thibodeaux willed Big Blue to victory in the crucial divisional matchup.

The Giants need Thibodeaux to be more consistent

Although Thibodeaux has had notable moments, he has yet to consistently live up to his potential. All Giants fans have heard the saying “Kayvon doesn’t like primetime, but primetime likes him“, and yet, has yet to shine in some prime matchups so far this season.

The Giants are in desperate need of defensive impact, and Thibodeaux could be the game-changer they need. Consistency is key for the second-year linebacker. He has given Big Blue flashes of his potential, and now, he needs to turn those flashes of excellence from his rookie season into a permanent part of his game.

It is clear that Thibodeaux possesses the skills and the talent necessary to excel, but he must focus on maintaining a high level of performance week in and week out. By developing consistency, Thibodeaux can solidify himself as a dominant force on the field and prove why he was selected fifth overall.