New York Giants rookie outside linebacker Kayvon Thibodeaux finally got his first action in the NFL Monday night after being sidelined for the first two games of the season with a knee injury and found it to be a significantly different experience from college.
"I would say that you’re not Superman," Thibodeaux said when asked about what he learned from playing in his first regular-season game. "There are times where you want to be the reason we win, there are times where you want to be the guy, and you’ve got to realize that the game isn’t played like that. There are 11 people for a reason; it’s a team sport for a reason. So just make sure that you contribute as much as you can and to the best of your ability given the circumstances."
Not being Superman is something Thibodeaux admitted to having to come to terms with. At the University of Oregon, the Los Angeles native sought to make every play he could while on the field and, in fact, developed into a playmaker.
While his transition to the NFL has been mostly smooth, Thibodeaux is perhaps getting a better grasp on how sometimes he can influence a play's outcome rather than be directly responsible for it.
"When you say ‘Be the Superman,’ I wouldn’t take it as a mindset because, for me, l still feel like I can make every play on the field," Thibodeaux said. "But it’s more of an understanding of how the game is played. You’re not just going against the other players on the field; you’re going against a coordinator, you’re going against a team, you’re going against people who do this and have been doing this for a living.
"It’s understandable that there are schemes and ways to isolate players or take them out, to do whatever. So, just me understanding that it’s a lot bigger than it was before, and it’s a lot more detailed, and it’s a lot more time taken within the schemes of offenses and things like that."
On Monday, the Giants' defense was unable to get to the quarterback or stop the Cowboys in the run game. Thibodeaux was asked about that showing and was, for the most part, upbeat.
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"I feel like it was a pretty good game given the circumstances," he said when asked about his performance on which he was on a pitch count. "So, I don’t think anything’s missing.
"I think that for a rookie, there can’t be rust. It’s just new," said defensive coordinator Wink Martindale of Thibodeaux's showing. "He hasn’t practiced that much since the injury. He’s done a lot of rehab, but he hasn’t done a lot of 11-on-11 work.
"I think it’s going to continue to get better," Martindale added. "I saw it in practice last week, but the week prior when we didn’t play him, that’s when I think he told you guys he was going to play that week, you didn’t see it. I think it’s just going to continue to build as he goes."
Not only will Thibodeaux continue to get better, but the hope is the defense will rebound from something of an off-night against Dallas.
"As far as the team, I feel like we could’ve executed at a higher level in the run defense," Thibodeaux said. "I think that kind of got away from us. Individually, I feel like I could’ve executed more, but health-wise, I feel confident in being able to deliver on the field."
Looking forward, the Giants will host a Chicago Bears team that so far has placed a heavy emphasis on the running game. Thibodeaux said stopping the run would be key.
"I think every game when you look at it, it’s about stopping the run," Thibodeaux said. "Once you can turn it into a drop-back game, you have the advantage. So, given that we gave up a lot of run yards last game, we’re focusing on stopping the run, and we’re going to harp on making sure we have good fits, good technique, and play true to our fundamentals."
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