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5 Things We Learned

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5 Things We Learned: Dexter is 'a freak of nature'


The Giants took the practice field at the Quest Diagnostics Training Center on Thursday as they continue to prepare for Sunday's game in Las Vegas.

Prior to the start of practice, coordinators Wink Martindale, Mike Kafka and Thomas McGaughey met with the media for their weekly press conferences.

Here are five things we learned ahead of the Week 9 matchup.

1. Dexter 'is a freak of nature'

Dexter Lawrence spent a large portion of Sunday's game in the Jets' backfield. The fifth-year lineman had a sack, one tackle for loss and five quarterback hits while totaling an eye-opening 15 pressures, according to Pro Football Focus. This tied the record for the most pressures in a single game by an interior defensive lineman. Additionally, he finished with a pressure on an incredible 42.9 percent of his pass-rushing snaps.

After a slow start to the year that saw him register zero sacks, five quarterback hits and 21 total pressures through the first six weeks of the season, Lawrence has been on a roll over the last two games. During that span, the All-Pro lineman has picked up three sacks, nine quarterback hits and 23 total pressures. His 44 pressures on the year are tied with San Francisco's Nick Bosa for the third-most in the NFL. On top of that, Lawrence is the only interior defensive lineman among the league leaders in pressures, according to the analytics site.

"The guy really is, he's unbelievable," defensive coordinator Wink Martindale said. "A man that big shouldn't be that athletic. We can all say that when you watch him. He's playing at a high level, he's very confident in what he can do. Just like I said with Kayvon, every year, and every day that we spend with them, and Dre (Defensive Line Coach Andre Patterson) has worked his tail off with him as well. The assistants have done a great job defensively developing these younger guys. Look at (inside linebacker) Micah (McFadden) as an inside backer. It's not the same extreme as far as what you're talking about with Dex, but Dex, he's a freak. He's a freak of nature."

View photos of the Giants on the practice field ahead of the Week 9 matchup against the Las Vegas Raiders.

2. Jones picking up where he left off

For the first time in nearly a month, quarterback Daniel Jones has been a full participant at practice this week. The fifth-year signal-caller has taken his full complement of practice reps over the last two days as he prepares to make his first start since suffering a neck injury in Week 5. While he has missed the last three games, Jones has not missed a beat.

"Daniel put in a nice day of work yesterday and looking to build on that," said offensive coordinator Mike Kafka. "Daniel's right back in the mix of it and leading and doing all the things that he needs to do."

Jones' ability as a runner has become a big part of his game. Last year, he set a franchise quarterback record with 708 yards and seven touchdowns on the ground. In just five games this season, Jones has nearly 200 rushing yards and a score.

On Wednesday, Jones spoke about how his recent neck injury is not going to stop him from being aggressive as a runner. However, the quarterback did note he has to be smart about getting down and protecting himself from hits when possible. Kafka said the team will keep the injury in mind when crafting the game plan for Sunday.

"You're certainly aware of the previous injury, but you've got to make sure we talk about that as a staff and in the gameplan and see how we want to handle that," Kafka said.

3. 'No ceiling' for how good Kayvon can be

Outside linebacker Kayvon Thibodeaux was held without a sack heading into Week 3. Over the last six games, Thibodeaux has seen his sack total rise all the way to 8.5, matching Cleveland's Myles Garrett and Pittsburgh's T.J. Watt for the third-most in the NFL. Three of his sacks came this past Sunday against the Jets, as the 22-year-old was consistently in the face of quarterback Zach Wilson.

Wink Martindale has had a front row seat to Thibodeaux's growth over the last 18 months and couldn't be happier for the young pass rusher.

"It's a thing that he's been working his tail off," Martindale said. "We talked about pass rush a month ago and when you're developing pass rushers, it's not just a straight arrow. Usually, it's a rollercoaster ride in developing those guys, but with him and working with (Outside Linebackers Coach) Drew (Wilkins) and consistently studying everything, you're seeing the growth of him as a pass rusher. I'm really happy for the guy…

"You guys know how I feel about Kayvon. I stand up here and say it every day. I told him, hell, I feel like I'm his attorney sometimes standing up here. But I really do. I think he's a great person. He's becoming a leader of this defense as well. I think that his hard work is really paying off for him."

In his first season in the NFL, Thibodeaux recorded four sacks, six tackles for loss and 13 quarterback hits across 14 games. His performance earned him a fourth-place finish in the Defensive Rookie of the Year voting, helped in part by his late-season surge that saw him pick up three sacks in his final five regular-season games.

Just eight games into his sophomore season, Thibodeaux has already doubled his rookie season sack total in addition to eight tackles for loss and 10 quarterback hits. The defensive coordinator told the media that the sky is the limit for the young edge rusher's potential.

"Kayvon, like I said, there is no ceiling on him and how good he can be," Martindale told reporters. "It's his personality. It's his work ethic. It's how he was raised. It's all those different things that go into it, and how much he likes to receive coaching. Like I said, he's a guy that I always want to be around, and that makes it fun to come to work."

4. Challenge of facing Adams

The Raiders have some very talented players on both sides of the ball. But when it comes to the offense, everything starts with Davante Adams. The three-time First-Team All-Pro wideout leads the Raiders with 47 receptions for 539 yards and three touchdowns. This comes despite Adams going through a stretch of four consecutive games being held under 60 receiving yards.

"I've said this before: he's one of the top two receivers in the league, and he's not number two," the defensive coordinator said. "I think that guy, you can have three people on him, and he'll still come up with the catch. He's a competitor. I think that it's going to be a great challenge for us this weekend."

Adams has been selected to the Pro Bowl in each of the last six seasons while being named an All-Pro in the last three. The 6-foot-1, 215-pound wideout led the NFL in receiving touchdowns in 2020 (18) and 2022 (14) while topping 1,350 yards in four of the last five years. Despite the Raiders benching Jimmy Garoppolo for rookie quarterback Aidan O'Connell, Martindale knows how challenging it will be to contain the talented receiver.

"The rookie quarterback is going to be a rookie quarterback," Martindale stated. "The quarterbacks in this league, they can either come out and be real hot, or quick games, I'm sure we'll see more screens than ever, especially on third down and things like that where they get the ball out of his hands quick. It's going to be a great challenge for us because the kid has talent. We know he's going to get the ball to 17 (wide receiver Davante Adams) and we know he's going to hand the ball off to No. 8 (running back Josh Jacobs). So, I think who's ever playing quarterback, they're going to get the ball to 17 and hand the ball off to No. 8. (Wide receiver) Jakobi (Meyers) does a nice job for them as well out there, and you can't just fall asleep on the other guys. They have talent offensively."

5. Injury updates; Waller, Taylor out

The big news on the injury front this week is the return of quarterback Daniel Jones. The fifth-year quarterback was cleared for contact by team doctors and has been a full participant in practice this week. Jones spoke to reporters Wednesday and spoke about his excitement about being back after missing the last three games with a neck injury.

There is a chance that Jones is not the only key contributor making his return this weekend. All-Pro left tackle Andrew Thomas has been sidelined since injuring his hamstring early in the season opener. Thomas returned to practice as a limited participant every day last week, and has been on the practice field each day again this week. Daboll said on Wednesday that the left tackle has "an opportunity" to play against the Raiders.

In addition to Thomas, the offensive line could get another starter back in the form of right tackle Evan Neal. The second-year tackle has missed the last two games with an ankle injury but also returned to practice in limited fashion last week.

On the other side of things, Daboll ruled out tight end Darren Waller (hamstring) and quarterback Tyrod Taylor (rib cage) for Sunday's game. The head coach did not dismiss the possibility of one or both of the veteran players going on injured reserve at some point.

View rare photos of the history between the Giants and Raiders ahead of their Week 9 matchup.


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