The New York Giants may not have much to write home about, but what the G-Men do have is one of the more productive pass rushers in the league on their roster in Kayvon Thibodeaux.
And for the Las Vegas Raiders, the second-year outside linebacker is the prime area of concern in this Sunday’s matchup between the two teams inside Allegiant Stadium.
The NO. 5 overall pick in the 2022 NFL Draft, Thibodeaux is tied for the third-most sacks in the NFL with 8.5 quarterback takedowns. The Cleveland Browns’ Myles Garrett also has 8.5 while the Jacksonville Jaguars’ Josh Allen is head with nine and the Minnesota Vikings’ Danielle Hunter leads the league with 10. But here’s the kicker with Thibodeaux, out of that group of players and the other six players that make up the league’s top 10 sack artists heading into Week 9, the Giants’ rusher is the youngest at 22 years old.
Thibodeaux is still developing his skillset and is showing tremendous growth in year two since being selected out of Oregon. He’s getting better at stopping the run while growing his rush toolkit for getting after opposing quarterbacks and Thibodeaux had his best game as a pro this past week racking up three sacks, nine total tackles, and three stops for loss in the Giants’ 13-10 overtime loss to the New York Jets. The 6-foot-5 and 258-pounder showcased the speed and power that made him a coveted prospect in that tilt. And the game tape will likely have the Raiders accounting for No. 5 at all times.
Nah Kayvon Thibodeaux is a sicko for this move pic.twitter.com/X1Yt6R0dkq— Marshall Green (@MarshallGreen_) October 30, 2023
Especially considering Las Vegas turns to rookie quarterback Aidan O’Connell to lead the offense going forward. A defender with Thibodeaux’s athleticism and growing smarts can be a headache for any play caller and it’ll likely be doubly troubling for new Raiders interim offensive coordinator Bo Hardegree. Not only does he assume play calling duties after former head coach Josh McDaniels and offensive coordinator Mick Lombardi were both dismissed by owner Mark Davis, but it’s the first time he’ll call plays in his coaching career.
While the Giants’ overall record of 2-6 isn’t impressive by any means, Thibodeaux is a one-man wrecking machine type that can compound matters for the 3-5 Raiders.
Dose of Saquon
While Daniel Jones is back on track to be the starting quarterback for the Giants, the G-Men would be wise to see how the Raiders defense handles a healthy diet of Saquon Barkley runs. While he’s only found the end zone once this season, he did have a season-high 36 carries for 128 yards against in last week’s loss to the Jets.
Testing Las Vegas’ defense early should be the ticket for New York. See if they can move the chains and run around and through the Raiders defense like the Chicago Bears and Detroit Lions were able to do in back-to-back weeks.
The 26-year-old Barkley may have been limited in practices this week, but he’s on track to play and seeing how the Raiders defense reacts to tackling the powerful 6-foot, 232-pound tailback should be priority. And Las Vegas should be ready for that, especially considering the Giants’ top receiver — tight end Darren Waller — is out for Sunday’s game with a hamstring injury (one that is all too familiar to the Raiders).
McDaniels got canned in large part to being the architect of the 30th ranked offense in the NFL despite being an “offensive genius”. The “owner” of the dead-last offense in the NFL is Giants offensive coordinator Mike Kafka.
While head coach Brian Daboll is also billed as a bright offensive mind, it’s Kafka who calls the plays and the results have been extraordinarily awful. The Giants have scored a total of 95 points (11.9 points per game average) and have only eight touchdowns on offense. The team has scored nine but one was a 102-yard interception return by Jason Pinnock.
The Raiders can’t get complacent even against the worst offense in the league. And it’ll be interesting to see if defensive coordinator Patrick Graham heads the words of interim head coach Antonio Pierce by pinning ears back and getting after Kafka’s offense.
Here’s one category where the Giants and Raiders are exactly the same: points allowed. Both squads have yielded 187 points to date (23.4 points per game) giving them the 22nd ranking in the league.
New York’s touchdowns allowed tally sits at 22. Although three of those end zone visits are two interception returns and a blocked field goal return with 10 being rushing scores.
Las Vegas’ allowed touchdowns total sits at 21. One is an interception return with 11 of those end zone visits being rushing scores.