Kayvon Thibodeaux wasn’t able to do everything he hoped he might in his NFL debut on Thursday night.
“I’ve gotta touch the quarterback,” he said after playing 14 defensive snaps without accomplishing that. “If I don’t touch the quarterback, I feel like I didn’t do my best job.”
But that lack of tangible production didn’t take away from the overall sense of joy that the first-round pick felt coming off the field against the Patriots after playing in a stadium that he had seen only on screens and not in person.
“Oh, man, it was dope,” he said. “For me, even just seeing it, we’re in the Patriots’ stadium, and it’s like I’m referring to Madden because that’s mostly when I’ve seen it. I’m like, ‘Man, we’re really in the NFL now.’ ”
Thibodeaux finished with one assisted tackle in two series, but he also drew the Patriots offsides for a penalty. Those kinds of plays don’t go down as sacks or tackles for a loss, but given how often offensive linemen tend to flinch or grab hold of him when he is in front of them — the Giants’ offensive linemen have been flagged for doing this a number of times in training camp — it may become a weapon for the edge rusher.
“He’s tough to block,” coach Brian Daboll said of Thibodeaux forcing penalties from opponents. “I hope he draws more of them.”
“I would take it as, you know, I’m winning in the mental game because I know that I have a jump on that offensive tackle mentally,” Thibodeaux said of Thursday’s instigated infraction. “I still have a lot of growing to do. As far ahead as I think I am, I’ve still got a long way to go.”
Such as getting to those quarterbacks.
There were other good signs from him, though.
“I thought I was going to be a little more nervous or uptight, but it was really natural and it was good,” he said. “I was using my moves and really putting everything I have been working on and making it happen in the game.
“I was able to set edges. I was able to get hands on guys. I was able to get off blocks, and I was able to be real efficient in the run game. I feel like I have a lot to work on in the pass game. I have a lot more tools to sharpen, but I felt like it was a good day.”
Even if he didn’t get a hit on a quarterback.
“This,” he said, “was definitely just a warmup.”
Besides the three players who left the game with announced injuries (guard Shane Lemieux, offensive tackle Jamil Douglas and cornerback Cor’Dale Flott), Daboll said on Friday that WR Darius Slayton did not return after starting the game with the first unit because he “tightened up.” Those four and the 16 players who were unable to appear in Thursday’s game because of injuries or soreness add up to almost a quarter of the roster that might not be able to practice (or practice fully) when the Giants return to the field Sunday. Daboll said it might be difficult to function with such thin availability and suggested a few fresh bodies might be added to the team.
Saquon rejoins preseason
Saquon Barkley doubled his career preseason rushing attempts with four and added a pair of catches on Thursday, appearing in his first preseason game since his rookie year of 2018. “It’s a little different for me,” he said after the game. “I feel like it’s very important to get full-speed reps against another opponent. Obviously, you get that tempo in practice going against the same guys, but when you go against another team, it always notches up. Go to another level. I feel like that’s probably the most important part, that competitive level going against another team. And when the regular season comes, you go to another level. So I’m excited for that.”
Kafka’s view from above
Offensive coordinator Mike Kafka called Thursday’s game from a booth above the field rather than from the sideline. Daboll said he and Kafka will discuss how that went before deciding how they will proceed in their next preseason game against the Bengals.