No. 5 pick Kayvon Thibodeaux wants his play to sing loudest for Giants – The Denver Post


Word on the street at Giants camp is Kayvon Thibodeaux can sing.

The No. 5 overall pick’s rendition of The Notorious B.I.G.’s “Juicy” was the standout performance of daily rookie singing in the defensive meeting room.

That earned him an encore performance days later, and according to players, Thibodeaux brought the house down with a rousing rendition of Chris Brown’s “Yo (Excuse Me Miss).”

“He’s the best performer for sure,” a teammate said. “He knocks it out of the park.”

Oddly, however, Thibodeaux was not amused Friday when told he’d been labeled the top rookie performer.

“Who’d you hear from?” he said. Teammates, he was told.

“I mean, no,” he said, sheepishly. He was asked if he’d always been a good singer.

“Uh, I don’t know, what do you think? That’s a — What’d they tell you about my skills?” he said. That he’s the best in the room.

“I’m happy they feel that way,” Thibodeaux deadpanned.

The Giants didn’t even include the exchange in the transcript of Thibodeaux’s podium interview.

Thibodeaux’s message appeared to be that he’d rather focus on football, particularly Sunday night’s preseason game against the Cincinnati Bengals at MetLife Stadium. And there’s nothing wrong with that.

After all, no one has higher expectations for Thibodeaux than he does.

He has memorized teammate Azeez Ojulari’s official Giants rookie sack record — “eight and a half,” he answered promptly. And he intends to break it this fall.

“I mean, I wouldn’t not want it [the record], so …,” Thibodeaux said with a laugh.

There are signs he could do it, too, based on his encouraging start to training camp.

For one, Thibodeaux so far has shown himself to be a powerful, often immovable body setting the edge in run defense. He doesn’t often lose ground. He either stands a lineman up or creates a push into the backfield.

He looks like a three-down player, not a pass rusher who might get subbed out situationally.

“That’s been great for us, because he’s not just a 1-on-1 pass rusher,” outside linebackers coach Drew Wilkins said recently. “He’s the total package as far as [how] he sets that edge, he’s violent in the run game, and he’s got a motor as a pass rusher. It’s not just gonna be one move clean all the time [for any edge rusher]. And he fights and he scraps.”

Secondly, Thibodeaux showed humility and poise at the Giants’ preseason opener in New England.

He said he wasn’t nervous at all — “I try to stay level and poised. I was just focused and waiting to see what was to come.” And he rejected the premise that he was having a strong camp.

“No. I feel like it can be better,” he said. “I feel like I got a lot of stuff to work on. It’s all about translation. You can make 100 shots in practice, but if you don’t make it in a game, you’re not worth nothin’.”

Thirdly — and Giants fans will love this — Thibodeaux was genuinely disappointed he only played 14 snaps in the opener against the Patriots.

“I mean I was sad when it was my time to stop, actually I was really pissed,” he said postgame Aug. 11 at Gillette Stadium. “I tried [to stay in], but they told me I was done, and I said, ‘for this snap, for this drive?” And [coach] said, ‘no for the game.’”

On Friday, he lobbied for more playing time against Cincinnati, so hopefully that means a longer showcase for the hometown fans.

“Hopefully I get a little more run in the second preseason game,” Thibodeaux said. “But definitely [I’m] just trying to refine and realize that you only have so many rushes and plays to dominate. So [I’m] making sure I don’t leave anything out there.”

Thibodeaux also said he’s played a lot on the right side because “I’ve had this chip on my shoulder with [left tackle] Andrew [Thomas] just making sure that I continue to keep going after him.

“I’ve got to even up the score,” he said of their head-to-head work. “He kind of got ahead a little bit [in training camp] and I’ve got to even it back up.”

That competitiveness is music to the Giants coaching staff’s ears. Thibodeaux’s eagerness to refine his craft and perform shows up in his practice habits, too. He’s all business.

As hard as Wilkins coaches Thibodeaux — constantly reinforcing hand placement and rush strategies — the defensive assistant said that’s what the rookie wants, too.

He wants to be great.

“Every great player I’ve been around — Terrell Suggs, Elvis Dumervil, all those guys that wanna be great — those little details, they wanna be coached hard,” Wilkins said. “They wanna be maximized on every single rep. And the great thing with [Thibodeaux] is whether it’s the run game, pass rush, dropping in coverage, the pressure stunts, everything else, he’s a perfectionist himself. So I’m gonna push him to that level because he wants to be pushed that hard.”

Keeping the focus on the field, though, may be easier said than done some weeks.

This week, for example, Super Bowl champion edge rusher Chris Long recorded constructive critiques of Thibodeaux and rookie tackle Even Neal in a video for The 33rd Team think tank.

Long said Thibodeaux is “really a good hip turner at the top of the rush” but needs to “work really hard on his technique” and moves to get there. Long also said “for as slight as he is,” Thibodeaux doesn’t appear “extremely twitchy” and that “he seems to lay hands on people, not put them on people … So he’s got a lot of work to do.”

It wasn’t scathing clickbait. These were legitimate coaching points from a former No. 2 overall NFL Draft pick.

Thibodeaux seemed irritable during his Friday interview conducted immediately after practice. It wasn’t clear if outside noise was bothering him. But his tone was different.

Like when he was asked if defensive coordinator Don Martindale sometimes asks his edge rushers to create an opportunity for others in the Giants’ blitz-heavy scheme — rather than being the tip of the spear themselves.

“I mean that’s everybody, that’s the game,” Thibodeaux said. “I try to explain football to a lot of people who just watch for entertainment, but if you’re not making the play, you’re doing something that is going to help someone else make the play. That’s every play. So, yeah, every team has that. That’s like one of the pillars of football.”

Maybe he’s tired of talking about playing football — and about his singing skills — and he just wants to play. Understandable.

Bring on the Bengals and a closer look at the Giants’ prized pick.



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