Wink Martindale on Kayvon Thibodeaux: 'We’re going to open up a can of whoop-ass, he’s the can opener'

Kayvon Thibodeaux of the Giants on the sidelines in the second half. The Houston Texans at the New York Giants in a game played at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, NJ on November 13, 2022.
Kayvon Thibodeaux of the Giants on the sidelines in the second half. The Houston Texans at the New York Giants in a game played at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, NJ on November 13, 2022. / Chris Pedota, NorthJersey.com / USA TODAY NETWORK

When the Giants selected Kayvon Thibodeaux fifth overall in this year’s draft, fans immediately thought about the boost he would bring to the pass rush. After all, the Oregon product racked up 35.5 sacks in three seasons in Eugene.

But through seven games as a pro, Thibodeaux has just one sack, which came against the Baltimore Ravens in Week 6.

And while injuries have certainly played a part in the edge-rusher’s development, Giants defensive coordinator Wink Martindale explained on Thursday that he’s more than satisfied with what Thibodeaux has brought to the defense.

“I think with our system, itself, I’ve said before it’s a position-less defense, and when you look at the defense statistically in areas where there are a lot of sacks, he’s doing the selfless work. I always say we’re going to open up a can of whoop-ass, well he’s the can opener,” Martindale said. “Like, you have a guy running free to the quarterback, playing a single-high safety, well he has to do the right pattern to get that guy free and that’s what pleases me about the guy himself.

“And I know everybody wants to say ‘sacks, sacks, sacks’ to him after games whenever you do the media with him, but if there’s 1,000 plays run and we’re happy with him 950 of them, that’s better than the guy that has 12 sacks, plays 600 plays and can’t play the run, can’t do this, can’t do that. I just think the kid’s playing great.”

Martindale went on to say that with the way Thibodeaux has been practicing and preparing in meetings, his sack total will eventually increase. But even without getting to the quarterback himself, Thibodeau – who the coordinator says has “an old soul” – has been operating well beyond his rookie status.

“It’s just like takeaways or anything else, the sacks will come. The other thing is too, look at the holding calls he’s drawn, look at the whole picture. He drops well in coverage, I can’t say nothing but positives about how he’s playing, how he’s chasing after the football like a veteran, studying like a veteran, leading like a veteran. So, I’m really glad he’s a Giant.”

The 7-2 Giants face another tough task this Sunday, when they host the Detroit Lions at MetLife Stadium. Detroit’s 3-6 record may not look like much, but Jared Goff and company are near the top of the league in offensive production, averaging 371.2 yards per game (6th in NFL) and 24.3 points per game (9th in NFL).

But as has been the case with every opponent this season, Martindale has plenty of confidence in his group.

“This defense, this group of guys, are the most selfless people I’ve been around in this profession,” he said. “All they want to see is what’s on the left and what’s on the right in the win column, and they have never flinched during a game. No matter what happens, they come back and they’re ready to go on the next play.