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23 Questions in 23 Days

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23 Questions in 23 Days: Breakout candidates

23-QUESTIONS-HELMETS is counting down to the start of the team's 2023 training camp with 23 questions in 23 days.

Each day, a member of the crew will answer one question about the roster, coaching staff, schedule, and much more.

21) Who is primed for a breakout season?

This one could have gone in a few different directions on either side of the ball, but let's go with outside linebacker Kayvon Thibodeaux. As a rookie, the former Oregon Duck started 14 games and finished with four sacks, 13 quarterback hits, six tackles for loss, two forced fumbles, two fumble recoveries, five passes defensed, and 49 total tackles (33 solo). However, when you look closely at his numbers, you can see that it was a tale of two seasons for the rookie. After suffering a knee injury during the second preseason game, Thibodeaux missed the first two weeks of the regular season. Even when he returned, the 6-foot-5, 258-pound pass rusher needed some time to really get going. Thibodeaux picked up just one sack in his first nine games but flourished towards the end of the season with three in the final five contests. The rookie put together one of the most dominant performances of the season against the Washington Commanders in Week 15, when he recorded 12 total tackles (nine solo), one sack, three tackles for loss, and a forced fumble which he recovered and returned for a touchdown.

Now entering Year 2 in defensive coordinator Wink Martindale's system, the sky is the limit for the 22-year-old Thibodeaux. Keep in mind, he spent most of last year getting his body ready for the NFL combine rather than an NFL season. With a full offseason to train and prepare for actual football, the outside linebacker's body should be fully ready to roll. Additionally, it's important to remember that Thibodeaux's fellow starting outside linebacker, Azeez Ojulari, dealt with injuries for most of the 2022 campaign. Ojulari played more than 50 percent of the team's defensive snaps in only three regular-season games. If the former Georgia Bulldog can stay on the field, things should open up even more for Thibodeaux. While Martindale's defense has a tendency to spread the sacks around the unit, it would surprise no one if Thibodeaux led the team in sacks in 2023.

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Get excited for the 2023 season with photos from Media Day at the Quest Diagnostics Training Center.