Over the last few weeks, the Giants defense has undoubtedly made significant strides.
After recording no turnovers in the first four weeks of the season, the defense has registered at least one in each of the last four games and has recorded eight total takeaways. Four of the Giants' last five opponents have been held under 300 total yards and each of the last three have not topped 14 points.
The recent success of coordinator Wink Martindale's unit can be attributed to players on all three levels of the defense. And outside backer Kayvon Thibodeaux has contributed mightily.
Thibodeaux was held without a sack through the first two games of the season. Over the last six games, he has registered 8.5, matching Cleveland's Myles Garrett and Pittsburgh's T.J. Watt for the third-most in the NFL for the season. Three of his sacks came this past Sunday, as the 22-year-old was consistently in the face of Jets quarterback Zach Wilson.
Martindale has had a front row seat to Thibodeaux's growth over the last 18 months and couldn't be more excited 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."
As a rookie in 2022, Thibodeaux recorded four sacks, six tackles for loss and 13 quarterback hits in 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 of 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 and has added eight tackles for loss and 10 quarterback hits.
Martindale told the media today 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."
"Honestly it would be a blessing, I guess," Thibodeaux said about potentially becoming the first Giant to record double-digit sacks under Martindale. "Right now, I'm at 8.5 sacks, most sacks I've ever had in the NFL, so it's like, it's only up from here. The bar keeps continuing to move and I'm proud of that."
While Thibodeaux has created pressure off the edge, Dexter Lawrence has done a tremendous job of doing the same up the middle.
The fifth-year defensive lineman totaled zero sacks and five quarterback hits through Week 6. Over the last two games, Lawrence has had three sacks and nine quarterback hits.
At 6-foot-4 and 340 pounds, Lawrence's size and athleticism is hard for Martindale to wrap his head around.
"He's unbelievable," the defensive coordinator 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."
Lawrence's impact was felt throughout the entire game against the Jets. Pro Football Focus had him for 15 total pressures on Sunday, which tied the record for the most in a single game by an interior defensive lineman. This led to PFF naming Lawrence its Defensive Player of the Week.
The analytics site has recorded 44 total pressures for Lawrence on the season, tying him with San Francisco's Nick Bosa for the third-most in the NFL. Only Las Vegas' Maxx Crosby (47) and Detroit's Aidan Hutchinson (46) have recorded more pressures this year, with Lawrence being the only interior player among the league leaders.
"When you have great players alongside of you, it's only right that you raise your level of play to theirs," said Thibodeaux. "Dex has been playing great and he's going to continue to play great and I want to continue to match him so that we can be a great front and a great defense."
"Dex, he's a freak," Martindale added. "He's a freak of nature."
*Head coach Brian Daboll briefly met with reporters before the start of Thursday's practice. Daboll said tight end Darren Waller (hamstring) and quarterback Tyrod Taylor (ribs) will miss Sunday's game in Las Vegas. Daboll did not dismiss the possibility of one or both landing on injured reserve.
*For the second consecutive day, left tackle Andrew Thomas (hamstring) and right tackle Evan Neal (ankle) were limited participants at practice. Thomas has been out since the season opener, while Neal has been sidelined the last two games. Daboll told the media Wednesday that both tackles have "an opportunity" to suit up this weekend.
View photos of the Giants on the practice field ahead of the Week 9 matchup against the Las Vegas Raiders.