HomeFootball DirtKayvon Thibodeaux, Giants' edge rusher, shows improvement in his second season

Kayvon Thibodeaux, Giants’ edge rusher, shows improvement in his second season

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EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) — There are days after practice when New York Giants edge rusher Kayvon Thibodeaux sits in a chair in the locker room across from Saquon Barkley, stares at a chess board and mulls his next move.

It usually doesn’t take long. It’s a bit of a mismatch going against the star running back. Thibodeaux has been playing a while and he seemingly is a move ahead of Barkley, who is a relative novice at the game.

It’s been that way on the field for Thibodeaux, too. The No. 5 pick in the 2022 draft has gotten even better after an excellent rookie season.

Through 13 games, Thibodeaux has career highs of 12 tackles for loss, 11 1/2 sacks and three forced fumbles — including one in each of the last two games.

His play has been a major reason the Giants (5-8) have won three straight games and are still in the hunt for a playoff spot as they prepare to visit New Orleans (6-7) on Sunday.

“He’s leading the defense,” defensive coordinator Wink Martindale said Thursday. “I mean, he’s a vocal leader out there. Like I already said, it’s crazy, because the guy is only 22 years old. He’s becoming that football savant in the NFL where he sees things before they happen. He knows what’s coming.”

Thibodeaux tried to downplay his coordinator’s praise, saying Martindale always says good things about him, and he’s just doing his job. He insists the ability to see things on the field is just the result of preparation.

“I study ball, and the more you study, the more you start to learn, the faster you start to learn, the faster you start to adjust and understand,” Thibodeaux said. “So yeah, things have been moving a little bit faster as far as my processing and things like that. So yeah, it’s been pretty good.”

Thibodeaux has 14 quarterback hits, which is tied for 38th in the NFL. His 37 pressures rank 39th among edge rushers and tied for 56th among all defenders, according to Pro Football Focus.

Thibodeaux said he worked on his conditioning in the offseason and he feels stronger than he did at this time last year. He has maintained his weight instead of losing it.

While he has posted better statistics this year, Thibodeaux feels he has played well in both of his seasons.

“I’ve done great things to contribute to the team,” Thibodeaux said. “So now just continue and grow in that impact and do things like that. I’m happy things are clicking even more, and I’m getting the numbers and the stats, and hopefully we start to continue to get the wins.”

Barkley hopes to cut down on Thibodeaux’s wins in chess. He has even started using a chess app.

“He’s been playing a lot longer than me, so the record favors him a little more right now, but I told him when I first started, give me a couple months and I’ll start winning some games,” Barkley said. “It’s been a lot more competitive. He still gets the best of me a little bit, but he’s smart, he’s a smart kid and obviously if you have any conversations with him, the way he holds himself is exactly how he is.”

Good at chess, and very good at football.

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AP NFL: https://apnews.com/hub/nfl

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