Kayvon Thibodeaux is a fan of the oldies. Frank Zappa. Motown.
New York Giants defensive coordinator Wink Martindale has started playing the classics prior to meetings on “Old Time Thursdays,” and Thibodeaux is eating it up.
“It’s a California thing,” Thibodeaux said. “When you’re from LA (Los Angeles) and you’re from the city, I feel like there’s a lot of older family – whether it’s grandmothers, grandfathers – who come from that Motown era. And they just bring it, and not just Motown, but all from the ’70s to the ’80s and just kind of bring it. It’s in your culture.”
Thibodeaux’s respect for the past is fitting considering what the New York Giants are expecting from their budding star at edge defender. It’s been years since the Giants, once known for their pass rush, had a true difference maker on the edge like Michael Strahan or Jason Pierre-Paul.
The hope is that Thibodeaux will live up to his status as the No. 5 overall pick and become the next in a line of exceptional pass rushers. A leg injury kept Thibodeaux from making his debut until Week 3, but everything has gone according to plan since then.
“I don’t think I’ve had a bad game,” Thibodeaux said. “I haven’t, through the totality of 10 games, I haven’t received any bad (feedback). There’s always plays you clean up. There’s always things you can grow from ... I’ve always been able to, whether it’s a bad play, fight back and kind of make up for it on the back end or just continue to keep being better.”
Thibodeaux has one sack and 18 tackles, and Pro Football Reference credits him with seven quarterback pressures. But according to defensive coordinator Wink Martindale, Thibodeaux’s greatest strengths are those that don’t show up on the stat sheet.
“I always say we’re going to open up a can of whoop ass. Well, he’s the can opener,” Martindale said. “You have a guy running free to the quarterback, playing a single high safety. Well, he has to do the right pattern to get that guy free ... I know everybody wants to say, ‘sacks, sacks, sacks’ to him after games whenever you do the media with him, but if there’s 1,000 plays run and we’re happy with him in 950 of them, it’s better than the guy that has 12 sacks, plays 600 plays and can’t play the run, can’t do this, can’t do that ... It’s just like takeaways or anything else, the sacks will come.”
Thibodeaux has embraced his role as a facilitator in Martindale’s system. He’s part of a pass rush that has Dexter Lawrence playing at an All-Pro level and has seen 12 different players record a sack this season.
“I would say it’s more satisfying when [someone else] makes the play,” Thibodeaux said. “Because sometimes you do things, and it’s like they almost make (a play). There’s always an if, but when they do make it, it’s always fun to rejoice with your teammate.
“Wink’s a mastermind at drawing up plays and things like that. So, just being able to plug and play wherever he wants me and being able to execute the defense. It’s, I guess, a knack of mine.”
Lawrence, who leads the team with five sacks, seems to have made a big impression on Thibodeaux.
“Dex, he’s a destroyer on the football field. But when he comes off, he’s all playful,” Thibodeaux said. “They’re all great guys. I think the thing that people miss out on is that this isn’t just a game. This is like an art. This is their job. This is their work. So, for me, just seeing how professional they are when it comes to the game and everything they do as far as their body (is impressive).”
On Sunday, the Giants will host the Detroit Lions and rookie Aidan Hutchinson. Thibodeaux, who was once in the conversation for the first overall pick in the draft, ended up being the third pass rusher selected. The Jacksonville Jaguars took Travon Walker at No. 1, and Hutchinson went to the Lions at No. 2.
Statistically, Hutchinson has outperformed Thibodeaux with 5.5 sacks and 15 pressures. However, Thibodeaux says he doesn’t draw any motivation from being passed over by Detroit.
“I don’t even think it was the team’s choice to pass over me,” he said. “I think it was already written. I think this is where I was supposed to be, and God had this in store. So, this is where I should be. I don’t really hold anything on anybody.”
Martindale also has no regrets about how the draft played out.
“I can’t say nothing but positives about how he’s playing,” Martindale said. “How he’s chasing after the football like a veteran, studying like a veteran, leading like a veteran. So, I’m really glad he’s a Giant.”