Outside Linebacker Kayvon Thibodeaux
Q: Your rookie year could go so many different ways. You had a little break now. How much do you feel maybe energized by the fact that unlike a lot of Giants rookies in years past, you are squarely in a playoff chase right here with a huge game coming up? Sometimes you hear about rookie(s) 'You hit the wall.' You're playing for a long season. This is all right in front of you. How energizing is that for you?
A: It's definitely exciting. Dabs (head coach Brian Daboll) talked to us today, and he kind of gave us that idea that the beginning of the season starts now. So, everything we've done has put us in position to go for it all. So, we can't get too far ahead of ourselves. But it is a big task at hand that we have.
Q: Does it help with aches and pains and with mental fatigue and things like that to know you're pushing for something really important?
A: Definitely. Not even just the playoffs and that, but just the idea of having those mentors like (former Giants) Michael Strahan and Carl Banks in the building – even Jessie Armstead – just to give you those insights to, 'This is where the biggest guys step up.' So, it kind of gives you that extra thing to play for – extra motivation.
Q: Speaking of mentors, when we were talking to (defensive lineman) Leonard (Williams) last week, he talked about wanting to take an even more active role and kind of giving you advice and just kind of helping you get through this – the long grind of your first NFL season. What has he been like for you?
A: He's been great – just like a big brother. And not just on the field but off the field and helping me get that routine and get everything in order so that I'm able to play and still available at the end of the season.
Q: It seemed like Thursday you had, at least from a far, a very active game. You had a big impact. How did that game feel to you in terms of your contributions?
A: It felt really good. I do feel like I had one of my better games. I still got a lot to grow from. (There's) still some rushes I left out there that I want back. But I definitely do feel like I've been growing in the right direction.
Q: A lot of times people say that the speed of the game can trip up a rookie, that this can trip up a rookie. What has been the hardest adjustment, if you will, for you in your rookie season? And where do you feel you're at as the season has progressed?
A: I feel like I've made a lot of big gains because I was kind of thrown into a position of leadership, and not necessarily like vocal leadership, but as far as play call – just situations and being on the field and having to take on a big role on the field. So, it was kind of a slow start for me just really kind of learning those ins and outs, and like you said, the game getting faster. But now I feel like I've been able to put a lot of it together, and now I've been able, with that last game, really put it together and play fast. I do, honestly, feel like that was my fastest game.
Q: I know you're not one to make excuses, but you did have a knee injury in the start of the year, which I have to believe kind of slowed you down a little bit. Is that fair to say, do you think?
A: Definitely. When you are a rookie coming in, I don't have an understanding of what's ahead. It's all new to me. So, I would definitely say that after that, I was able to really accelerate my learning and figure out the things I needed to while I wasn't on the field.
Q: The Giants just announced that (outside linebacker) Azeez (Ojulari) is going to be designated to return from IR. You guys were supposed to be the two bookends; you haven't really been on the field much together so far this year. What does having him back going to mean to you and to this defense?
A: It's definitely exciting. He's a great player. We have meetings, and we're in practice every day together. So, having him back out there is definitely going to be a one-up for the D-line and for the pass rush – for the team. So, I'm excited to see him really let it loose.
Q: You guys talk about how it's not all about sacks. But is there a part of you in these last six games that would like to see A. yourself and B. the team pump up that number to maybe cause negative plays?
A: If I could rack up 100 sacks in this next six games, I would buy them. But sadly, that's not how the game is played. And I think it's a testament to our play calling. There's a great feel for teams and how we play defense. I would say it's not necessarily a lack on us as players, not having that many sacks, but it's a plus to our defense because teams are scheming it. They're getting the ball out. Obviously, we lost the last two games. So, there are some adjustments that we've got to make up front within us as players. But just as far as us scheme-wise, I feel like we've been making a lot of plays. We've been making the plays that we're allowed to make given the scheme and everything that goes into a game.
Q: Do you feel like Azeez can help that part of it?
A: Definitely, he's a guy who can win on any given snap. So, that's definitely going to continue to affect the quarterback and put pressure on him.
Q: What do you think the key is here just to get back in the win column for your team?
A: Just to continue harping on the game plan, get everybody healthy and play for 60 minutes. I feel like that's the only place we kind of took hits. That last game we weren't able to really finish it, play for all 60 minutes and hold up on the backend. So now that we have a new fresh week, we just got to make sure we stick to our fundamentals and play for 60 minutes.
Q: Has the team lost any confidence or mojo in your mind?
A: No, I don't think our swagger is gone. I don't think anything about who we are and our character is gone. I just feel like it's going to take more confidence for a lot of guys who have to step up and take on these bigger roles.
Q: When you look at what you guys have been able to do consistency-wise throughout the year to this point, can you remain consistent but also crank up the urgency knowing that what lies ahead now is going to really determine (how) this team is viewed this season?
A: December football is the most important football. So, now that we're here, we definitely have to crank up the intensity, crank up the sense of urgency. But again, it's not getting too ahead of ourselves. I think it's just everybody doing their job to a high level and playing for the guy next to him. I feel like we'll come out with the outcome that we want.
Q: What is the best part so far of playing for Brian Daboll? Is there anything about his approach as a head coach that has surprised you at all?
A: No, I think he's done everything for the players, by the players. I think he's just a great coach. I think he's been putting it together. To me, he's probably – again, I've only had one NFL coach – but he's the greatest I've had so far. I love playing for him, and there wouldn't have been any better organization or staff, back office, that was put together than (general manager) Joe (Schoen) and Dabs.