NY Giants see Thibodaux, Neil as the start

East Rutherford, NJ (AP) — Kywan Thibodaux and Evan Neal were familiar when the New York Giants drafted them in the NFL Draft in late April with their fifth and seventh picks overall.

It seems that now they are connected in more ways than one: They are teammates and friends, two big guys who have gone up against each other every day of training camp. And as the first week draws to a close on Saturday, the rookies are also geared up as the start and a lot more is expected.

A linebacker and edge rusher from Oregon, Thibodaux is going to line up on both sides in coordinator Vink Martindale’s keep-guessing defense. Neal, who came out of Alabama and was second of New York’s first-round picks, has been tackling right since organized team activities in the spring.

“They’ve made it clear they’re counting on us, but I’m counting on myself to make the plays and live up to my goals for myself,” Thibodaux said. “It’s been a great journey so far, and I know they believe in us. And they’ve given us all the tools to keep moving forward. So, now it’s up to us to make it happen.”

Neil and Thibodaux would occasionally hang out with each other at summer camp when they were in high school. Alabama and Oregon never met on the field in their college careers.

“It’s just so ironic that we ended up on the same NFL team,” Neil said. “I’m excited to go against him every day, to make each other better. I believe that iron sharpens iron.”

The Giants received an additional first-round pick after being traded to the Chicago Bears in the 2021 draft, falling from the 12th pick overall to No. 20.

After losing five consecutive seasons, if things start to change under coach Brian Daboul, the Giants need Thibodaux and Neil as rookies to do well. New York set a record of 4-13 in 2021.

Both have quickly picked up the playbook: Thibodaux has shown the ability to reach a passerby and Neil blocks well.

“He hits me some reps, I give him some reps. That’s all, that’s the name of the game – getting better,” Neil said.

However, the workout is done in shorts and jersey. Things change when the pads are put in next week.

Thibodaux has gone from being a big, talkative personality in the early days after the draft to a more commercialized one since the camp opened.

“You got to know how to compartmentalize,” Thibodaux said. “There’s a time and place for everything. So, when we’re on the field it’s all business, and now it’s training camp. We’re getting ready for a long journey.”

Neil said that the two do not share notes off the field for fear of giving each other an advantage.

“We’re just putting our heads down and we’re done,” Neil said.

Giants will take that kind of attitude.

NOTES: Safety Dan Belton intercepted a Daniel Jones pass in the end zone. … Cornerback Darne Holmes forced a fumble by Saxon Barkley and a long comeback from defensive back Julian Love. … Backup quarterback Tyrod Taylor shows off his athleticism by dunking the football on the crossbar after running for a touchdown.

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