‘NO CEILING’ FOR HOW GOOD KAYVON CAN BE
Outside linebacker Kayvon Thibodeaux was held without a sack heading into Week 3. Over the last six games, Thibodeaux has seen his sack total rise all the way to 8.5, matching Cleveland’s Myles Garrett and Pittsburgh’s TJ Watt for the third-most in the NFL. Three of his sacks came this past Sunday against the Jets, as the 22-year-old was consistently in the face of quarterback Zach Wilson.
Wink Martindale has had a front row seat to Thibodeaux’s growth over the last 18 months and couldn’t be happier for the young pass rusher.
“It’s a thing that he’s been working his tail off,” Martindale said. “We talked about pass rush a month ago and when you’re developing pass rushers, it’s not just a straight arrow. Usually, it’s a rollercoaster ride in developing those guys, but with him and working with (Outside Linebackers Coach) Drew (Wilkins ) and consistently studying everything, you’re seeing the growth of him as a pass rusher. I’m really happy for the guy…
“You guys know how I feel about Kayvon. I stand up here and say it every day. I told him, hell, I feel like I’m his attorney sometimes standing up here. But I really do. I think he’s a great person . He’s becoming a leader of this defense as well. I think that his hard work is really paying off for him.”
In his first season in the NFL, Thibodeaux recorded four sacks, six tackles for loss and 13 quarterback hits across 14 games. His performance earned him a fourth-place finish in the Defensive Rookie of the Year voting, helped in part by his late-season surge that saw him pick up three sacks in his final five regular-season games.
Just eight games into his sophomore season, Thibodeaux has already doubled his rookie season sack total in addition to eight tackles for loss and 10 quarterback hits. The defensive coordinator told the media that the sky is the limit for the young edge rusher’s potential.
“Kayvon, like I said, there is no ceiling on him and how good he can be,” Martindale told reporters. “It’s his personality. It’s his work ethic. It’s how he was raised. It’s all those different things that go into it, and how much he likes to receive coaching. Like I said, he’s a guy that I always want to be around, and that makes it fun to come to work.”
LATEST ON OFFENSIVE PLAYMAKERS
In addition to quarterback Tyrod Taylor, the other Giant to go down with an injury on Sunday was tight end Darren Waller. The 31-year-old was on the injury report with a hamstring injury throughout the week, but was active for the Week 8 matchup. Waller caught one pass for four yards before leaving the game due to a hamstring injury.
The veteran tight end has started every game for the Giants so far this season and leads the team with 36 receptions for 384 yards. He put together his best game of the year against the Commanders in Week 7, catching seven passes for 98 yards and his first touchdown of the season.
Daboll told the media Thursday that Waller will miss this weekend’s game in Las Vegas.
Speaking of playmakers, Saquon Barkley is coming off his highest yardage total of the season. The sixth-year running back ran for 128 yards on a career-high 36 rush attempts. It was his first time topping the 100-yard rushing mark since Week 10 last year when he ran for 152 yards on 35 carries, which at the time was the highest carry total of his career.
Barkley’s performance earned him a nomination for the FedEx Ground Player of the Week, and he now gets an opportunity for another strong outing this Sunday. The Raiders enter this matchup ranked 30th in rushing yards, 26th in yards per attempt and 28th in rushing touchdowns allowed this season. The Lions ran for 222 yards against the Raiders on Monday, marking the second consecutive week in which the defense allowed over 170 yards on the ground.
CHALLENGE OF FACING ADAMS
The Raiders have some very talented players on both sides of the ball. But when it comes to the offense, everything starts with Davante Adams. The three-time First-Team All-Pro wideout leads the Raiders with 47 receptions for 539 yards and three touchdowns. This comes despite Adams going through a stretch of four consecutive games being held under 60 receiving yards.
“I’ve said this before: he’s one of the top two receivers in the league, and he’s not number two,” the defensive coordinator said. “I think that guy, you can have three people on him, and he’ll still come up with the catch. He’s a competitor. I think that it’s going to be a great challenge for us this weekend.”
Adams has been selected to the Pro Bowl in each of the last six seasons while being named an All-Pro in the last three. The 6-foot-1, 215-pound wideout led the NFL in receiving touchdowns in 2020 (18) and 2022 (14) while topping 1,350 yards in four of the last five years. Despite the Raiders benching Jimmy Garoppolo for rookie quarterback Aidan O’Connell, Martindale knows how challenging it will be to contain the talented receiver.
“The rookie quarterback is going to be a rookie quarterback,” Martindale stated. “The quarterbacks in this league, they can either come out and be real hot, or quick games, I’m sure we’ll see more screens than ever, especially on third down and things like that where they get the ball out of his hands quick. It’s going to be a great challenge for us because the kid has talent. We know he’s going to get the ball to 17 (wide receiver Davante Adams) and we know he’s going to hand the ball off to No. 8 (running back Josh Jacobs). So, I think who’s ever played quarterback, they’re going to get the ball to 17 and hand the ball off to No. 8. (Wide receiver) Jakobi (Meyers) does a nice job for them as well out there, and you can’t just fall asleep on the other guys. They have talent offensively.”
SCOUTING THE REST OF THE RAIDERS
The Raiders made a big change this week, relieving head coach Josh McDaniels and general manager David Ziegler of their duties as head coach and general manager, respectively. While Champ Kelly was named the interim general manager, someone very familiar to Giants fans was named the team’s interim head coach – former linebacker and team captain Antonio Pierce. The former Giants linebacker and team captain will lead the team for the remainder of the season before the Raiders undergo “a comprehensive search for a head coach once the season is complete.”
The Raiders offense has struggled this season, topping the 20-point mark just once in eight games (21 points vs. Patriots in Week 6). Coming off their 14-point, 157-yard performance against the Lions on Monday Night Football, the Raiders now rank 30th in points and 31st in yards this season. Additionally, Las Vegas’ 16 turnovers are tied for the second-most in the league.
The changes carried over to the field, as well. Pierce announced Wednesday afternoon that rookie quarterback Aidan O’Connell is the team’s starting quarterback moving forward. In his only start this season, O’Connell completed 61.5 percent of his passes (24 of 39) for 238 yards, no touchdowns and one interception. He added a touchdown on the ground.
The top target in the passing game is Adams, as mentioned above. But Adams’ running mate, Jakobi Meyers, is not far behind him with 38 receptions for 404 yards and a team-high five touchdowns. Meanwhile, running back Josh Jacobs led the NFL with 1,653 rushing yards and 2,053 yards from scrimmage last season. While off to a slow start this year, Jacobs is coming off his most efficient outing of the season. The 25-year-old averaged more than 4.0 yards per carry for the first time in 2023, carrying the ball 15 times for 61 yards and a touchdown and adding two receptions for 27 yards.
The Raiders defense starts on the edge with the talented Maxx Crosby. The fifth-year defensive end leads the team with 6.5 sacks, 10 tackles for loss and 10 quarterback hits, all of which are significantly more than anyone else on the Raiders defense. Crosby had 12.5 sacks and a league-high 22 tackles for loss in 2022 on his way to his second consecutive Pro Bowl selection.
Linebacker Robert Spillane has a team-high 65 tackles (34 solo) on the season along with two interceptions. Safety Tre’von Moehrig is tied with Spillane for the team-lead with two interceptions himself. Moehrig is also tied for the most passes defended on the team with four, tying cornerback Marcus Peters. The veteran cornerback had the play of the game for the Raiders in Week 8 with his pick-six against the Lions.