Carl Banks isn’t having any of the idea Kayvon Thibodeaux is a draft “bust.” Instead, Banks believes the New York Giants’ outside linebacker’s role is misunderstood by critics who shouldn’t judge Thibodeaux the same as Dallas Cowboys’ edge-rusher Micah Parsons.
Banks, who won two Super Bowls with the Giants playing the same position as Thibodeaux, explained to Bob Papa on an episode of the “Bleav in Giants” podcast how the critics “don’t know what he’s (Thibodeaux) being asked to do.”
Getting into specifics, Banks believes “what Kayvon Thibodeaux is doing is what they’re asking him to do.” Banks also outlined why it’s unfair to expect Thibodeaux to produce the numbers Parsons is posting: “One of the greatest defensive players in this league right now is Micah Parsons. His team asks him to do something different. That’s not ‘Wink’ Martindale’s defense.”
The reference to the scheme preferred by Giants’ defensive coordinator Don ‘Wink’ Martindale should poke a hole in Banks’ argument. Yet, Martindale’s play calling may be preventing the fifth-overall pick in the 2022 NFL draft from delivering more sacks.
Giants Still Waiting for No. 5 Pick to Breakout
Thibodeaux has no sacks nor any tackles for loss through two games this season. He’s registered just a single pressure, despite being on the field for 84 percent of the snaps for the Giants’ defense, per Pro Football Reference.
The disparity between Thibodeaux’s playing time and his stat line has become a worryingly common theme for the Giants. As Dan Duggan of The Athletic put it, “Thibodeaux hardly left the field, yet didn’t show up in the box score,” during Week 2’s 31-28 win over the Arizona Cardinals.
Speaking after the game, Thibodeaux hit out at so-called “social media GMs,” per ESPN’s Jordan Raanan.
While Thibodeaux is right to place the importance of the Giants’ overall win-loss record above his own individual achievements, more production from the team’s primary edge-rusher would help the team’s struggling defense.
Generating pressure is what the Giants drafted Thibodeaux to do, although he notched just four sacks as a rookie. His core skills should be the perfect fit for Martindale’s system, but things are working out differently in practice.
Player and Scheme Not Gelling
Martindale has a well-earned reputation as arguably the most blitz-happy coordinator in the NFL. His defense posted a league-high 39.7 blitz percentage last season.
Martindale’s fondness for dialling up pressure should bring out the best in Thibodeaux, who posted 19 sacks in three years at Oregon. Unleashing Thibodeaux off the edge and on the blitz ought be as simple as the way the Cowboys use Parsons.
The Dallas defense is built on letting No. 11 rush the passer from multiple angles. Parsons has blitzed 10 times through two games and he’s responded by logging three sacks and recording eight pressures, per Pro Football Reference.
Those numbers contrast sharply with Thibodeaux only blitzing twice this season. Martindale’s methods for creating pressure often involve blitzing defensive backs, but his main edge-rushers aren’t being turned loose.
Instead, Thibodeaux is playing a more conservative role, one he may not be enjoying. Speculation mounted Thibodeaux is unhappy after he was filmed sat away from his teammates and not joining in the celebration after Saquon Barkley scored a touchdown against the Cardinals.
Thibodeaux refuted the speculation and explained “he meditates and prays” at key times during games, per Pat Leonard of the New York Daily News.
Playing a more conservative role doesn’t suit Thibodeaux, but it’s what Banks did during his years with the Giants. Banks often focused on jamming tight ends or dropping to cover zones, while Hall of Famer Lawrence Taylor chased quarterbacks from the other side.
Sacks weren’t a feature of Banks’ game, and he believes it’s unfair to expect Thibodeaux to be different just because of his draft status. As Banks pointed out, he was selected third overall in 1984 and still perfected a role less flashy than that of a primary pass-rusher.
It would be easier for the Giants to accept Thibodeaux doing the same if another of Martindale’s edge defenders picked up the slack. Unfortunately, Azeez Ojulari, Jihad Ward and Oshane Ximines aren’t wrecking pass protection the way Parsons does.