Giants DC Wink Martindale expects Kayvon Thibodeaux to be 'at the top of everything'

Like most starters, Giants linebacker Kayvon Thibodeaux didn't suit up for New York's 21-16 preseason loss to the Lions on Friday.

He instead met a challenge handed down to him by defensive coordinator Wink Martindale, taking it to Detroit in a leadership role during the two joint practices that preceded the game.

"I thought that in Detroit, on Tuesday and Wednesday, I think he caused two fumbles and recovered two fumbles," Martindale said when asked about the linebacker's performance throughout camp and in those particular practice sessions, per the team transcript. "I expect him to be at the top of everything, and so do we. I've talked to him about his practice. I think that he heard me clearly.

"I talked to him in front of the entire defense. So, Kayvon is going to be fine, first of all. Like I said, he caused two fumbles, and he recovered two fumbles. In the two days, we had, like, eight takeaways against, what were they, a top-five offense last year, which gave us confidence in ourselves and the way we competed there."

Thibodeaux's pair of stellar practices against the Lions comes during a camp that by all accounts has been productive for the second-year pro, who is looking to use August as a launching pad for success in a way he couldn't as a rookie.

The 2022 No. 5 overall pick missed the first two games of last season after suffering a sprained MCL in the team's second preseason contest, slowing the start to his year that eventually ended with four sacks, two forced fumbles and five passes defensed.

He added 11 tackles and a quarterback hit in New York's two playoff games, but he rarely elevated his play to game-changer status in Year 1.

Martindale bringing up his practice habits in front of the whole team might sound like there's been some lethargy in Thibodeaux's approach to reaching that stage in Year 2, but that's apparently far from the case.

"No," Martindale replied when asked if he spoke to Thibodeaux due to feeling he wasn't being intense enough. "I do a 'keep it real' with everybody on where they're at and why they're there, because the last thing I want as a coach is for a player to drive in this parking lot and not know where they stand, especially this time of year. Because I think that we build our relationships, we build our foundation on trust and honesty.

"I tell them what I think and where they stand, and where the competition is, where the line is. I talk about all that. So, like I said, we had a great week in Detroit. I'm sure you haven't heard that quote very often. But it was it was a great week, and I'm excited to take this next step."

The next step for the Giants defense must involve boosting a lackluster showing that saw it rank 17th in points and 25th in yards last season despite reaching the Divisional Round for the first time since 2011. For that to happen, especially in a bloodbath of a division like the NFC East, New York needs Thibodeaux at his best.

Martindale has been doing his part as the motivator. Thus far, it's translated to Thibodeaux making his mark.

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