New York Giants edge rusher Kayvon Thibodeaux was feeling pretty confident in himself and his defense during Sunday’s 31-19 victory over the Washington Commanders. So confident, in fact, that he approached Commanders left tackle Charles Leno toward the end of the first half to thank him.
“For what?” Leno responded, according to Thibodeaux’s account that he told reporters.
“For the 10 sacks I’m going to get today,” he said.
Thibodeaux, who entered the game with 8.5 sacks on the season, got one right at the end of the second quarter before getting another with six minutes to go in the fourth to bring his total to 10.5 on the season — the first time in his career that he’s hit double-digit sacks in a single season and the first player ever to reach that benchmark in coordinator Wink Martindale’s system.
“It’s the first time I’ve had double-digit sacks in the NFL,” Thibodeaux said. “It’s a blessing. I just have to keep working… You work your whole life to be in the NFL. You work every day to get sacks, that’s why they drafted me. So being able to deliver for this team and get a win gives me no better feeling.”
Across 35 matchups during the Week 11 win on Sunday to improve the Giants to 3-8, Thibodeaux generated eight pressures (22.9% pressure rate) against Leno — five of those coming in under 2.5 seconds. He also had his quickest pass-rush get-off this season, too, at 0.68 seconds, per NFL Next Gen Stats.
This is the Thibodeaux that the Giants were expecting when they drafted him fifth overall last year. After posting just four sacks in 14 games in his rookie season, the Oregon product has found his pass-rushing groove. All 10.5 of his sacks have come in his last nine games after being shut out in Weeks 1 and 2.
In two games against the Commanders, both of which were Giants wins, he racked up 3.5 sacks in total. Meanwhile, his defense on Sunday forced six turnovers, the most in a game since 2014.
“Just playing hard,” Thibodeaux said. “It’s a divisional opponent, so we all knew what was on the line. It’s a game that
mattered, I’m happy we got the win.”
At his current pace, Thibodeaux is projected to finish the 2023 season with 16 sacks, which would be the most in a season by a Giants pass rusher since Jason Pierre-Paul posted 16.5 in 2011. He would also be just the eighth player in franchise history to record a season with 15 or more sacks, joining Lawrence Taylor (three times), Michael Strahan (three times), Jim Katcavage (two times), Andy Robustelli, Leonard Marshall, Jack Gregory, and Pierre-Paul, per Stathead.
“I’m glad we have Kayvon,” Giants head coach Brian Daboll said. “He’s a true competitor, great teammate, productive player for us, and I’m happy he’s on our team.”