Kayvon Thibodeaux has not counted his would-be sacks in training camp, just his successful moves. And he did not like where the number ended up Saturday.
“I didn’t really have the biggest execution on the moves that I wanted, so it wasn’t a good day,” Thibodeaux said at the conclusion of Giants practice. “Even though I was working hard, I probably got to the quarterback a couple times, I still like to really sharpen it and hold myself to a higher standard.”
The highest standard is where Thibodeaux holds himself. And it is what the Giants, who put their faith in the Oregon product by selecting him fifth overall in the draft this spring, expect of him. As soon as possible.
The Giants ranked 22nd in sacks last year, and bolstering the pass rush was one of many items on new general manager Joe Schoen’s to-do list this offseason. Thibodeaux, who will play outside linebacker in Don Martindale’s 3-4 defense, is the addition most suited to that end.
“They have articulated that they’re counting on us [himself and rookie tackle Evan Neal], but I’m counting on myself to make the plays and live up to those goals that I have for myself,” Thibodeaux said. “It’s been a great journey so far and I know that they believe in us.”
Even early in training camp — too early to get a real evaluation of linemen, as the pads won’t go on until Monday — things look positive. Thibodeaux has fully recovered from an injury that kept him limited during organized team activities, and even on the topic of not hitting the quarterback, he drew praise from Giants coach Brian Daboll.
“He’s a good listener,” Daboll said jokingly, as the Giants have kept their quarterbacks uninjured thus far. “It’s hard to play defensive line or be a pass rusher and have to stay away from the quarterback and be smart, but that’s something we stress.”
It is, however, hard to get a real read on Thibodeaux since he cannot go full tilt.
“For the whole front line, you really have to judge when the pads come on,” Thibodeaux said. “There’s a different type of play. We can’t really bull-rush, we can’t use all our moves and then we gotta hold up on the quarterback. Knowing that, I’d rather lose a rep than get yelled at by [Daboll].”
Time will soon alleviate that issue and give a better indication of what Thibodeaux can do — and how soon he can do it.
Nothing he does on the field this year will put an early end to the Giants’ rebuilding process, but he can give fans a reason to get excited, or at least to believe. It has been some time since the Giants provided either of those.
Thibodeaux, who at various points was projected to go as high as first overall in the draft, can give them a foundation at a position of import. And at 21 years old, such a foundation would be long-lasting.
At least for the time being, though, all of that is conjecture, a future Thibodeaux himself did not delve into Saturday. The future he focused on was the one in which he straps on the pads and does some hitting.
“I’m very excited,” he said. “There’s a lot of things as a pass rusher, as a defensive guy, you’re not able to do without pads. … Now it’ll be more of a fair game. I’ll be able to use all the moves I’ve been working on.”
That future, at least, is a guarantee, even if anything afterward is not. It will come on Monday.