After making a name for himself by the end of his rookie year, New York Giants pass rusher Kayvon Thibodeaux is looking for him and his team to take the next step in 2023.
Though three NFC East teams (the Giants, Dallas Cowboys and Philadelphia Eagles) made the playoffs last season, Thibodeaux knows the NFC conference champion Eagles are favorites to win the division this year. Thibodeaux said Friday on NFL Network's Good Morning Football that the Giants enjoy being "underdogs" heading into this season.
"I mean, it's been good for me. I like to lay low," Thibodeaux said. "I'm happy that people are counting us out, cause that gives us more time to just work. We don't have to answer those questions, we don't have to worry about everybody looking at us. We can just keep our head down and grind. And I think you know, we love being the underdogs, cause that always gives us that story, that momentum to really work and really go after what we want."
Thibodeaux, the fifth-overall pick in the 2022 NFL Draft, had an up-and-down rookie campaign. The outside linebacker suffered an MCL sprain during the preseason, leading him to miss the first two regular-season games. In Week 6, Thibodeaux recorded his first NFL sack in a win against the Baltimore Ravens, but then endured a five-game streak without a sack until Week 12. It wasn't until late in the season that Thibodeaux emerged and was named Week 15's NFC Defensive Player of the Week. He finished the season with four sacks and five passes defensed.
New York's defensive unit improved from 2021 to 2022 with Thibodeaux and new defensive coordinator Don "Wink" Martindale in town. The duo played a part in the Giants making a playoff appearance in 2022 for the first time since 2016, which was highlighted by a road playoff win in Minnesota before falling to the Eagles in the Divisional Round. Thibodeaux explained how Martindale's coaching influence turned things around for the team.
"Yeah, Wink is definitely a players' coach. When we talk about defense, I think he's a mastermind alongside with the rest of the assistant coaches," Thibodeaux said. "They know how to draw it up and know how to utilize the players that they have."
After experiencing his first season in the NFL, Thibodeaux hopes Martindale and Co. can make a deeper playoff run in Year 2.