EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – Kayvon Thibodeaux has a chance to play in his first NFL game, while Leonard Williams might miss one for the first time in his eight-year career, when the Giants host the Dallas Cowboys on Monday night.
Thibodeaux, the fifth overall selection in the 2022 NFL Draft, and fellow edge rusher Azeez Ojulari, a second-year pro, were today both listed as questionable for the game on the Giants' final injury report of the week. Neither played in the team's victories against Tennessee and Carolina, Thibodeaux because of a knee injury he suffered in a preseason game on Aug. 21 and Ojulari with a calf injury sustained in practice four days later.
Both players are expected to play leading roles in coordinator Wink Martindale's pressure-heavy defense. Last year, Ojulari led the Giants with a franchise rookie-record 8.0 sacks, while Thibodeaux had 7.0 sacks in 11 games for the University of Oregon.
Coach Brian Daboll was asked what he has seen from the two players in practice.
"Improvement," he said. "They've taken good steps. I think they are much better than they were the week before. Hopefully, they'll have a good day here, and we're moving in the right direction with those guys."
Without a setback, is Daboll confident the two young players will face Dallas?
"I hope so," he said. "I'm happy for the players that they're getting better. I've been hopeful the last couple of weeks. They're two good players for us. You'd like to have every player you can available. So, I'm excited if they're ready to go. It'll be good to have them out there."
He certainly has the same wish regarding Williams, but that is less likely. The veteran defensive lineman is listed as doubtful and has not practiced this week after hurting his right knee against the Panthers.
Williams has never missed a game in high school, college or the NFL, where he has played in 114 straight, starting 106.
Williams seldom leaves the field, so it will be a significant adjustment for the defensive front if he is sidelined. The group includes Dexter Lawrence, Nick Williams, Justin Ellis and rookie D.J. Davidson.
"I would say all the guys that are in that D-line room are ready to go if that's the case," Daboll said. "We try to use those big guys – you try to use as many guys as you can to keep them fresh throughout a game. If it is a case where Leo can't go, then those guys will be ready to go. Obviously, Leo's a really good player. But every guy we got on the roster we expect to be ready to go."
In addition to Williams, second-year wide receiver Kadarius Toney is doubtful with a hamstring injury. He was limited in practice Thursday but was relegated to a non-participant yesterday – when the team held a walkthrough – and today.
"We're just trying to do right by the player," Daboll said. "He didn't do anything for walkthrough, so we downgraded him.
"I think anybody that's injured, we try if we think maybe there's a chance, maybe there's not a chance. Again, those discussions happen after this (last) practice, after they go through some rehab sessions or light work on the practice field. And if they can't go, they can't go. But (we) try to hold out hope as long as we can to see if those guys can go."
The Giants will wear their all-white Color Rush uniforms on Monday Night Football against the Cowboys.
*Four players will definitely not go: wide receiver Wan'Dale Robinson (knee), cornerbacks Aaron Robinson (appendix). Justin Layne (concussion) and Nick McCloud (hamstring) have been declared out.
That leaves open the question who starts at cornerback in place of Aaron Robinson opposite Adoree' Jackson. Last week, rookie Cor'Dale Flott started against Carolina in place of Aaron Robinson and was replaced in the second half by Fabian Moreau, who was elevated from the practice squad.
What about Monday?
"Those decisions, too, we'll go through today's practice," Daboll said. "Then we sit down as a staff and any of those things we got to talk about still, which I'd say that I have confidence in the guys that are playing opposite of him (Jackson). It could be both of them, or it could be one of them. But we'll let today's practice go, then we'll talk about that."
*Right tackle Evan Neal, the Giants' other first-round draft choice this year, drew a difficult blocking assignment this week in Dallas linebacker Micah Parsons, who had 2.0 sacks in each of the season's first two games and 17 in 18 career contests.
"It's going to be fun," Neal said. "That's why you always dream of playing in the NFL, to go against the best players. Micah's a great player. He's really fast, the guy runs a 4.3. So, it's going to be exciting to go up against him."
Parsons is being compared to some of the great pass-rushing linebackers, notably Giants Hall of Famer Lawrence Taylor.
"He's an elusive pass rusher," Neal said. "He's really crafty. He's a very athletic guy and he's slippery so a lot of times it's hard for, they play him everywhere. They line him up literally everywhere, he's a Swiss army knife for their defense, so that's really what kind of makes it tough to prepare for him."
*Giants fans will also have something to cheer for at halftime Monday, when seven legendary figures in their history are inducted into the franchise's Ring of Honor.
The group includes former running backs Joe Morris, Ottis Anderson and Rodney Hampton, defensive end Leonard Marshall and Ronnie Barnes, the senior vice president of medical services who has been a member of the team's medical staff for 47 years, will join this year's class of inductees. The final two members of the 2022 Ring of Honor class - defensive back Jimmy Patton and halfback/receiver Kyle Rote - are deceased.
All seven of the honorees were members of Giants championship teams: Patton and Rote in 1956; Morris in 1986; Anderson and Marshall in 1986 and 1990; Hampton in 1990; and Barnes has been with the organization for all four of its Super Bowl victories. Morris, Marshall and Anderson increase to nine the number of players from the 1986 Super Bowl XXI championship team who are in the Ring of Honor.
"We are proud to add these deserving and legendary figures in Giants history to our Ring of Honor," said John Mara, the Giants president and chief executive officer. "Each of the players was among the very best at his position to wear a Giants uniform. All of them helped our franchise win championships and enjoy long-term success, as has Ronnie Barnes, who has been an invaluable and beloved member of our organization for decades."