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Kayvon Thibodeaux 'makes everything roll' for Giants defense

KAYVON-THIBODEAUX

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – Giants edge rusher Kayvon Thibodeaux made plenty of plays in a 14-7 victory against Washington last week, but it's one play he didn't make that continues to bother him.

Late in the third quarter, the Commanders had a first-and-15 at their own 12-yard line. Quarterback Sam Howell was chased all the way back to the end zone by linebacker Micah McFadden before floating a pass that was the football equivalent of a baseball popup. Had Thibodeaux caught the ball, he almost certainly would have scored. But he dropped it at the 20-yard line with nothing but green turf in front of him, and neither team scored another point.

"People are still asking me about the dropped pass," Thibodeaux said today. "For me, the frustration is when you understand Michael Jordan, he made the shots, Kobe Bryant, he made the shots. In the NFL, you can talk about every pass Tom Brady made and that's the difference between good and great. You can make plays but sometimes the frustration comes from wanting to reach that next level."

Thibodeaux didn't make that play, but he is certainly ascending to higher levels. His contributions against Washington included 1.5 sacks, four total tackles, and two quarterback hits. He has a team-high 5.5 sacks this season – 1.5 more than he tallied his entire rookie season – and is tied with Bobby Okereke and McFadden with five tackles for lost yardage.

"I think I'm continuously getting better," Thibodeaux said. "Carrying momentum from last year, I had four sacks so if you're comparing, I'm already doing better and I'm having more of an impact. But as a team, we won a game so I'm happy about that, and now we're trying to keep that momentum and just continue to get better as a whole."

Defensive coordinator Wink Martindale believes Thibodeaux is having a strong sophomore year.

"I think he's a very good football player and I think he's having a really good season," Martindale said. "You're talking about a guy in the NFL that as an edge rusher, as a linebacker who played 68 out of the 69 plays, which is a rarity in itself. Where's he at now, five-and-a-half sacks? He makes everything roll for us. I know no matter what he does, it might not reach what some people think he should be doing, but I think he's a hell of a football player. I'm glad that we have him. I'm glad that I've had the opportunity to coach him."

Defensive lineman Dexter Lawrence led the Giants with four quarterback hits against Washington. Thibodeaux was one of the Giants with two. He has seven this season, two behind team leader Lawrence.

"I think that we ask him to do so many different things," Martindale said. "Sometimes, they're going to put all the attention on him going into that game. Sometimes, we can get one-on-one, sometimes we can't get one-on-ones. So, all we're interested in really is just wins and playing well defensively. Just to point one individual guy out, I think we're going down the wrong street with that. There's guys that do a lot of the other heavy lifting stuff that, in my opinion, don't get enough credit. He's one of them with how we move him around and how we use him."

Thibodeaux has been criticized on local sports radio for not having a greater impact on games. He seems unbothered by it. Giants legend Carl Banks and two radio announcers had a heated on-air disagreement about Thibodeaux's effectiveness, with the former linebacker strongly supporting the improving second-year pro.

"Man, let's just keep playing," Thibodeaux said. "Everybody has an opinion, everybody has a critique and sometimes I like it when they're educated, sometimes when somebody's trying to help me get better. But most of the time you try not to pay attention to it because it'll have your emotions going up and down.

"I actually was just told (by) one of the reporters about what happened, and I'll probably go look at it later on, but I appreciate the support from the people who do like my game and the people who want to watch me play. I think the biggest thing is for me to just continue to get better, you know? Not have any weeks where I'm not impacting the game as much as I want to. I try to just stay consistent and focus on what I can control."

*Thibodeaux will play in his first Giants-Jets game Sunday when the teams meet in MetLife Stadium.

"When you talk about playing the Jets, I think it's going to be real competitive," he said. "It kind of gives you that old school feel of like a high school rivalry game, something like that. They're a great team. They've got a great defense. We're trying to outplay them; I know they're going to try to outplay us and we're going to try to go put a real competitive game together."

*When Saquon Barkley was young and the Giants faced the Jets, Saquon Barkley rooted for the team's whose primary color is green.

"I definitely can remember that," Barkley said. "Some people are familiar with my history of being a Jets fan growing up. My dad is a real big Jets fan, having a Jets tattoo. Finally got him to - he's still rooting for the Jets this game, but he hopes we win this time. So, I got him to say that out of his own mouth two or three days ago. I finally got my father on my side."

*In two games since sitting out three weeks with an ankle injury, Barkley has 216 scrimmage yards and scored on a 32-yard catch-and-run last week.

"I'd say Saquon's doing a great job being – obviously, he's back so it's one of those things where he's involved in the game plan, he's running the ball more," offensive coordinator Mike Kafka said. "We can use him outside on the perimeter as a receiver. He had that long touchdown catch which was a great play by him, broke a few tackles, so I think Saquon is doing a great job like he has been his whole career."

*Quarterback Daniel Jones continued to work on the practice field, but again did not participate in team drills. Jones could miss his third consecutive game with a neck injury he suffered Oct. 8 in Miami.

*Lawrence received a rest day and did not practice today, just as fellow defensive lineman Leonard Williams did yesterday. Williams practiced fully today. The only other Giant who did not practice was running back Gary Brightwell (hamstring).

*Wide receiver Wan'Dale Robinson (knee) was added to the injury list as a limited practice participant, and kicker Graham Gano (left knee) was upgraded to a full participant.

The other players who were limited were Jones (neck), Barkley (elbow), tight end Darren Waller (hamstring), tackles Andrew Thomas (hamstring) and Evan Neal (ankle), center John Michael Schmitz (shoulder), linebacker Thibodeaux (knee), and cornerback Adoree' Jackson (neck).

View rare photos from the local rivalry between the Giants and Jets.

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