The next LT? Giants rookie rusher Thibodeaux has promise
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) — Every time the New York Giants draft a linebacker high in the first round, some people start hoping he turns out to be the next Lawrence Taylor.
The chances are remote. There’s never going to be another L.T. He was one of the greatest players of all time. It’s wishful thinking hoping for another.
It brings us to Kayvon Thibodeaux, the linebacker/edge rusher the Giants took with the fifth pick overall this spring. The rookie from Oregon as shown flashes this season after missing the first two games with a knee injury.
What he did on Sunday night in a 20-12 win at Washington was a good imitation of Taylor, at least for a game.
Thibodeaux had a game-changing strip-sack and fumble recovery for a touchdown in the second quarter. He finished with 12 tackles, including three for losses, and he mixed in couple of tackles after 20-yard runs downfield.
He also saved the lead in the closing minutes with a tackle of Commanders quarterback Taylor Heinicke at the 1-yard line. It prevented a touchdown that would have moved Washington within a 2-point conversion of tying the game.
Washington never scored and eventually turned the ball over on downs to give the Giants (8-5-1) a clear path to their first postseason berth since 2016. They can wrap it up as early as Saturday if they win at Minnesota and get a combined two losses by either Washington, Seattle or Detroit.
Thibodeaux said no matter how well he played last week, it’s only one game.
“I mean, it definitely does give me a few stripes now,” he said. “I can look myself in the mirror and know that I came here to play and I came here for a purpose.”
His goal for this week is to repeat all the things he did to prepare for the Commanders.
What helped Thibodeaux have his breakout game was the front four all played well. Tackles Dexter Lawrence and Leonard Williams and fellow edge rusher Azeez Ojulari all made big plays.
Giants defensive coordinator Wink Martindale has said all season that Thibodeaux has been steadily making progress as he adjusts to the NFL.
“It was fun to watch,” Martindale said of Thibodeaux’s prime-time performance. “I keep telling you all this: He’s working on the little things. He’s getting better every week. I think that was an accumulation of all the work that he’s done. Like I said, it was a lot of fun to watch.”
Thibodeaux was selected as the NFC Defensive Player of the Week.
“You love recognition,” said Thibodeaux, who has three sacks this season and is the only defensive player on the team with a touchdown. “When you’re doing the dirty work and you’re working hard, you sacrifice your body to glorify your soul. It definitely does feel good.”
Thibodeaux, who is dealing with an elbow injury, hopes his performance doesn’t prompt the Vikings to use a receiver or running back to slow down his rush. He feels getting to Kirk Cousins will be a key ingredient in slowing down Minnesota’s passing game, which features top receiver Justin Jefferson (111 catches for 1,623 yards).
“We’ve talked about it as a unit — the only way we’re going to be able to stop him, not the only way, but one of the ways that we can affect playing against the best wide receiver in the league is affecting the quarterback,” Thibodeaux said.
NOTES: CB Adoree Jackson (knee) did not practice and probably will miss his fifth straight game. ... With the waiving of ILB Tae Crowder, New York has an open spot on its 53-man roster. Coach Brian Daboll would not say whether S/ILB Landon Collins will get the spot. He has had three promotions from the practice squad and can’t play unless he is added to the roster.
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