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Progress Report: Rookies take on larger roles

WANDALE-ROBINSON

The Giants' rookie class has played a big role in getting the team to 6-2 at the bye. Here's what we've seen from these players through the first eight games of the 2022 season:

Kayvon Thibodeaux – 1st round, 5th overall

After missing the first two games of the season with a knee injury, Thibodeaux ramped up his snap count over a three-week period to where he became a full-time edge defender who routinely led that position group in snaps every week.

Thibodeaux had three tackles for four straight weeks until the Seattle game. He has one sack and three quarterback hits to go along with a forced fumble and fumble recovery. He has played 161 snaps on the right edge and 130 snaps on the left edge.

Notable Quotables: Head Coach Brian Daboll on what Thibodeaux has shown him this season: "That he loves the game of football. He's a really good teammate. He's smart, and he gives great effort. Those things are very important. Obviously, we knew he was talented. I think his intangibles have been very good for us, and they're going to need to continue to be."

Evan Neal – 1st round, 7th overall

Neal was the Giants starting right tackle for the first seven weeks of the season before hurting his knee and missing the game against the Seahawks. After a tough game against the Cowboys in Week 3, Neal has showed steady improvement as a pass protector, and helped the Giants amass the third-most rushing yards in the NFL. Neal is week-to-week with his knee injury.

View photos from the 2022 rookie class in action during the first half of the season.

Wan'Dale Robinson – 2nd round, 43rd overall

Robinson played only a handful of snaps in Week 1 before injuring his knee and missing the next four games. The next three weeks he went from catching three passes for 37 yards against the Ravens, to catching six for 50 yards against the Packers. After a two-catch performance against the Seahawks, he has 12 catches on 17 targets for 107 yards and a touchdown. Six of those catches have gone for first downs and three have gone for 15 yards or more. According to PFF, Robinson has forced two missed tackles with 60 of those yards coming after the catch. Robinson has played 94 of his 124 snaps in the slot, with 30 coming outside.

Notable Quotables: head Coach Brian Daboll on how Robinson was playing coming off his injury: "I think he was doing good. I think there's a lot of things to work on. He hasn't played a lot of football games. We'll just keep on teaching him during the week. He's got a great attitude. I think he wants to do as well as he can do. He's a good young player to work with."

Joshua Ezeudu – 3rd round, 67th overall

Ezeudu got the first start of his NFL career against the Seahawks on Sunday, playing every one of the 65 snaps. Ezeudu had played 119 snaps prior to the game against Seattle as an injury replacement. He has shown to be an impressive run blocker, and is often used as a puller on power plays to the right side of the offensive line.

Notable Quotables: Head Coach Brian Daboll on where he has seen Ezeudu improve: "Really every aspect of his game. You don't see it, obviously, when he's not playing. But each week, he gets a little better on the show teams. He does a good job in individual (drills). Still a young player. Still a long way to go. But I think (offensive line coach) Bobby (Johnson) and (assistant offensive line coach) Tony (Sparano Jr.) have done a good job. And credit to Josh; he's done a good job on keeping his eye on just getting better day-by-day."

Cor'Dale Flott – 3rd round, 81st overall

A calf injury has kept Flott off the field since the third game of the season. He's played 60 defensive snaps and 21 special teams snaps. Eight of his snaps have come in the box, three in the slot, and 50 at outside cornerback. He has participated in kick coverage, punt coverage, and on punt return teams. He has four tackles.

Daniel Bellinger – 4th round, 112th overall

Before his eye injury in Week 7, Bellinger had started six of the seven games. Despite missing the Seahawks game, he leads all tight ends and wide receivers in snaps with 285. He has 16 catches for 152 yards and two receiving touchdowns. He also has a lone rush for two yards and a touchdown. He was also proving himself as a dependable blocker in the run game. 225 of his snaps have come in-line, while 39 have come in the slot and 22 have been wide.

Notable Quotables: Head Coach Brian Daboll on where Bellinger has improved since arriving here: "I think he's come a long way. He'll be the first to tell you, he's still got to keep on improving. But I'd say he's a tough-minded individual. Tight end is a difficult position to go from college – usually – to the NFL. We ask him to do quite a bit; I've been very happy with how he's approached things. I've been on him pretty early on, having coached the tight ends for a little while. (Assistant General Manager) Brandon Brown, (Director of Player Personnel) Tim McDonnell did a great job of scouting him coming out (of college). They were huge proponents of him during the draft process, and as we got to know him, what he stood for, some of the intangibles that we look for, he's done a good job. And we've asked him to do a variety of things. He just gets a little bit better each day. But again, it's a tough position. They all are, but it's a tough position to go from college right away to the NFL. And give Brandon and Tim some credit, too. They really stood on a table for him when they did their evaluations."

Dane Belton – 4th round, 114th overall

A clavicle injury over the summer cost Belton the first game of the season, but he has been a prominent player in the Giants' defense since, playing 199 snaps on defense and 81 on special teams. He has split his time as a box defender, slot defender, wide corner and deep safety. He has played a prominent role on kick coverage, kick return and punt return special teams units. He has 18 tackles, a quarterback hit, a tackle for loss, one pass defended, and two fumble recoveries.

Notable Quotables: Defensive Coordinator Win Martindale on Belton after his fumble recovery in Week 2: "I think that Dane's a really good football player and is going to continue to get better. For a rookie in the first play, you're in in the National Football League and recover a fumble going down on a kickoff, that's pretty cool. So, if things go up from there, he's going to have a heck of a career – which I think it will. He does have some versatility to him. It's harder earlier with rookies, because until you get them rolling, like the first five weeks after they're used to (it and) they get in the rhythm of the league itself. You can just imagine being at a young age like that and going out there, and (it's) your first time doing what you dreamed of all your life. So, I always take that into account."

Micah McFadden – 5th round, 146th overall

McFadden has been a key part of the special teams to start the season, but his role on defense seemed to grow in Week 8 against the Seahawks. He has been a mainstay on kick coverage (38 snaps), kick return (40 snaps) and punt return teams (19 snaps). After not playing any defensive snaps in Weeks 6-7, McFadden played 26 defensive snaps, including eight as an edge rusher, where he got his first sack of the year. He also has 10 tackles, a quarterback hit and one tackle for loss.

Notable Quotables: Head Coach Brian Daboll on why McFadden played more in Week 8 against Seattle: "Continual improvement. He's done the right thing, on and off the field. We use a lot of packages on defense and shuffle a lot of guys in and out, and that was something that we were going to do this week and give him some chances. He made the most of them."

DJ Davidson – 5th round, 147th overall

Davidson's season ended in London against the Packers when he went down with a knee injury while playing special teams. For the first five games of the season, he was part of the defensive line rotation with 43 snaps. He also played on the punt return team and field/goal extra pint kick and block units. He had two tackles for the season.

Marcus McKethan 5th round, 173rd overall and Darrian Beavers 6th round, 3rd overall

McKethan and Beavers each suffered season-ending knee injuries during the preseason.

Tomon Fox – Undrafted free agent

Fox is coming off his best game of the year with eight tackles against the Seahawks, setting the edge against fellow rookie Kenneth Walker III. He has 14 tackles on the year to go along with a sack, quarterback hit, and two tackles for loss. Fox has played the majority of his 146 defensive snaps on the edges and his 35 special teams snaps have come on kick return, punt return, and punt coverage teams. His 41 snaps in Week 7 and 44 snaps in Week 8 were personal season highs.

Ryder Anderson – undrafted free agent

A current member of the practice squad, Anderson has played 11 defensive snaps this season.

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