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Film breakdown: Kayvon Thibodeaux’s big game against Dallas

Why was Thibodeaux so good on Thanksgiving Day?

New York Giants v Seattle Seahawks Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images

The New York Giants received an excellent game from their rookie fifth-overall selection, Kayvon Thibodeaux, in their 28-20 loss against the Dallas Cowboys. Thibodeaux pressured Dallas’ quarterback Dak Prescott early and often; the rookie pass-rusher recorded two quarterback hits on Dallas’ first drive.

According to Pro Football Focus, Thibodeaux matched Dexter Lawrence’s season high-pressure total of nine against Dallas (Lawrence recorded that against Houston). Thibodeaux had a team-high five quarterback hits against an above-average Dallas offensive line (Leonard Williams had four against Seattle and Lawrence had four against Houston)

One of Thibodeaux’s best pass-rushing reps resulted in a quarterback hit that was negated and not counted toward his statistics because of the phantom Darnay Holmes defensive holding call in the third quarter.

Despite missing the first two games due to injury, Thibodeaux is second on the Giants in pressures this season. He has 28, and Lawrence has 39; Leonard Williams is in third with 22, and Jihad Ward has 17.

For comparison, Kayvon Thibodeaux has rushed the passer 250 times this season. Fellow top-five picks Aidan Hutchinson and Travon Walker have rushed the passer 382 and 299 times this season, respectively. Hutchinson has 33 pressures, and Walker has 24.

Thibodeaux's pass-rushing arsenal is expanding, and the speed of the game seems to be slowing down for the sharp rookie. He’s quickly establishing the half-man relationship - getting hip to hip with offensive linemen - while also doing a good job bending through contact and orienting his hips into the pocket.

He’s a smart player who assumes a vital role in Wink Martindale’s defense. Not only is Thibodeaux referred to by Martindale as the “can opener” who keys many of Martindale’s exotic pressure packages, but he’s also the SAM linebacker who is tasked with wide-ranging responsibilities. The opposing offenses pay a lot of attention to Thibodeaux in pass protection, but he’s still finding ways to make an impact.

Thibodeaux’s upside remains high, and he’s coming off his best game of the season. The Giants will need his presence down this tough stretch of the season.

We’ll see if he can build on this impressive performance. Here’s the breakdown: