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June 18, 2023

NFC East Beats: Are Kayvon Thibodeaux and the Giants the division's new underdogs?

Kayvon Thibodeaux sees it that way, but life doesn't get any easier for the Giants with the Eagles and Cowboys still around.

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Kayvon-Thibodeaux-Eagles-Giants-NFL-Playoffs-Divisional-Round1.21.2023.jpg Eric Hartline/USA TODAY Sports

Kayvon Thibodeaux and the Giants turned a lot of heads last season with a surprising run to the playoffs, but was all of that sustainable?

The Eagles are sitting in pretty good shape as they wait for training camp. 

They only have a few position battles to truly figure out, a promising batch of rookies coming on board, and their franchise quarterback has been signed long-term and is aiming for another run back to the Super Bowl. 

Honestly, this has been one of the more certain, and in turn, uneventful offseasons in years, and that's meant in a good way. 

This team knows what they're doing and has the leadership both on and off the field to instill confidence that they do. 

What about the rest of the NFC East?

The ground's a bit shakier elsewhere. Here's a rundown...

Little Giants

The Eagles took the NFC East, the Cowboys were right behind them as a wild card, and then there were the Giants, who turned a lot of heads and made a surprising run to the playoffs last season under first-year head coach Brian Daboll. 

A 7-2 start faltered in the back half of the regular season, but New York still clinched a spot and even managed an opening-round upset of the Vikings before getting thumped right out of it by the Eagles

But with everyone in the league aware of them now, not to mention a division that didn't get any easier, there's doubt over whether the Giants have any higher of a ceiling or if what they did last year was even sustainable. 

The Eagles got better – on paper, at least – and so did the Cowboys, while the Giants had to give the big quarterback contract to Daniel Jones and are in a holding pattern on a new deal for star running back Saquon Barkley.

It's a tough act to follow up under even tougher circumstances for a team that hasn't had much success in a while, but Kayvon Thibodeaux will tell you he prefers that. 

"I mean, it's been good for me. I like to lay low," the second-year pass rusher told NFL Network's Good Morning Football on Friday. "I'm happy that people are counting us out, cause that gives us more time to just work. We don't have to answer those questions, we don't have to worry about everybody looking at us. We can just keep our head down and grind. And I think you know, we love being the underdogs, cause that always gives us that story, that momentum to really work and really go after what we want."

Again, it's going to be a tough act to follow.

Thibodeaux, who the Giants drafted fifth overall last April, missed the early part of the season with an MCL sprain and didn't become a focal point of their defense until late when he recorded three of his four sacks within his last five regular-season games – one of which didn't win him any fans as he laid on the ground making snow angels after taking down a visibly injured Nick Foles.

None of his sacks – across a 48-22 defeat in Week 14 and the 38-7 thrashing in the playoffs – came against the Eagles. 

The holding pattern on a Barkley deal

Circling back to Barkley, the Giants placed the franchise tag on him after the season, but he never signed it and didn't attend their mandatory minicamp this past week as a result. 

The 26-year old back is after a long-term deal still, and the two sides have until July 17 to figure one out, otherwise he'll have to play under the tag at $10.1 million or sit out the coming season. 

Barkley rushed for 10 touchdowns and a career-best 1,312 yards in a major bounce-back year, but the Giants chose to address long-term deals for Jones and Pro Bowl defensive tackle Dexter Lawrence first, leaving things with Barkley in that aforementioned holding pattern heading into the summer. 

The likelihood is that an agreement will be reached, but for right now, neither side has much else to say, even in light of rumors over what might've been offered so far. 

“There’s a lot of stuff I could go into, but I feel like we say, ‘Family business is family business,’ in that building,” Barkley said last weekend from his youth football camp in Jersey City (via The Athletic). “The thing I’m frustrated most about is, like I said, ‘family business is family business.’ Then sources come out and stories get leaked and it didn’t come from me.”

Commanders sale nearing a vote?

Sixers owner Josh Harris has a $6 billion agreement in place to buy the Washington Commanders from Dan Snyder, and the league may be closing in on the vote to approve the sale. 

Per Ben Fischer of Sports Business Journal, NFL owners have been told to reserve July 20 and August 8 as dates for a possible special meeting, which points to the league wanting to push the deal through quickly. 

If approved by either date, Harris will finally have ownership of an NFL franchise on top of the Sixers and the NHL's New Jersey Devils, while the league will finally be rid of Snyder, who is never in the news for anything good.

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