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Kiwanuka part-time LB?

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Kiwanuka part-time LB?

Post  Big_Pete on Sun Aug 08, 2010 5:43 am

from


Natural defensive end Mathias Kiwanuka snaps into action as linebacker for Giants

BY Ralph Vacchiano
DAILY NEWS SPORTS WRITER

Sunday, August 8th 2010, 4:00 AM

ALBANY - Mathias Kiwanuka has always insisted he's a defensive end, even when he was forced to play linebacker for 10 games in 2007. He's more comfortable at defensive end. He's better at defensive end.

Then yesterday morning, for a few snaps anyway, he found himself back at linebacker again.

Maybe it's just an experiment. Maybe it's something more. But for now, at least, new Giants defensive coordinator Perry Fewell is tinkering with the idea of using the 6-5, 265-pound Kiwanuka as a linebacker, at least occasionally. It makes sense, given the Giants' current logjam of defensive linemen.

And despite resisting the idea of a position switch in the past, Kiwanuka seems to be embracing the idea of a part-time change.

"Yeah, I like it," he said after the morning practice at the University at Albany. "Just put me on the field. I'll make a play. That's how I look at it. I've said from the beginning, whatever this defense needs me to do, I'm willing to do it."

It likely will be more of a situational change than anything, especially if Fewell uses a defensive line with three or four defensive ends. Tom Coughlin explained that the switch was made yesterday morning when the Giants' offense was running a no-huddle drill. Kiwanuka started on the line of scrimmage on first down, then simply stood up and dropped back when it was clear the offense would have to pass.

It could be more than that, though. With Kiwanuka and veteran defensive end Dave Tollefson both sitting in on the linebacker meetings, it could be a way for Fewell to keep all his defensive ends happy. He's likely to have issues finding enough playing time for Justin Tuck, Osi Umenyiora and first-round pick Jason Pierre-Paul. It will be much easier if two of his ends can pull double duty someplace else on the field.

"We'll see how it goes," Kiwanuka said. "Perry said he's going to try to use everybody to their strengths, get a lot of different matchups, a lot of different looks. This should be just the beginning of it. Depending on how I perform at the position, how the defense looks, maybe we'll use it more, maybe we'll use it less."

The Kiwanuka linebacker experiment had mixed results in 2007, when the former first-round pick was moved back there because the Giants already had Michael Strahan, Tuck and Umenyiora blocking him at end. There were times when he was a force in the pass rush - he ended up with 4-1/2 sacks before he broke his leg in Week 10. But he often looked awkward in pass coverage as he tried to learn a position he had never played before.

Those 10 games, though, were invaluable he said.

"It helps 100%, there's no doubt about that," Kiwanuka said. "No. 1 just (knowing) all the terminology that the linebackers and DBs use, it makes it easier to make transitions like that. No matter what the scheme is, I at least have a basic understanding of what I'm supposed to do."

Of course, what he wants to do is play defensive end. He made it clear Saturday that "I'm a defensive end" and he spoke openly in the offseason about wanting to start at the position. It could be even more important to him considering that the 27-year-old, who is scheduled to make $1.776 million this season, could be a free agent at the end of the year.

None of that, though, was his primary concern. He said if the Giants need him to play linebacker, then that's what he'll play.

"Once we get into camp it becomes about the team," Kiwanuka said. "If we have a better chance winning games with me back there, then I'll be there."

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Re: Kiwanuka part-time LB?

Post  Big_Pete on Sun Aug 08, 2010 5:48 am

I think this is really interesting. At this stage I think it is designed as change up options, both Tuck and Osi have apparently been at LB in some alignments.

But I think this may be a way of hedging the bets as well with Sintim's development. If Sintim doesn't progress as we would like, it could be likely that Kiwanuka at SLB is the contingency plan. I don't think the front office are thrilled with any of the other options at SLB this year.

I find it very interesting that Kiwanuka and Tollefsen are in Linebacker meetings.
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Re: Kiwanuka part-time LB?

Post  Big_Pete on Sun Aug 08, 2010 5:58 am

Thinking about it a little more, I like the idea of Kiwanuka at SLB, it wouldn't be that different to guys like LaMarr Woodely, Anthony Spencer and Greg Ellis at OLB.

He has the strength and ability to jam the outside and unlike Sintim made an impact right away at SLB in his rookie year (despite learning a new position). Playing outside Tuck gives us a very nasty combo on the strongside. It also means guys like Witten, Celek and Cooley could have to stay in to block a lot more.

Kiwanuka can also mix in with the DEs as required, particularly in passing situations.

Sintim would still mix it in at SLB, and it gives Sintim a genuine mentor at SLB.

It still gives us plenty of depth with Osi, Tuck, JPP and Tollefsen as full-time DEs.

It would effectively give us a LB roster something like

SLB: Kiwanuka, Sintim

MLB: Bulluck, Goff or Blackburn, Dillard

WLB: Boley, Kehl or Wilkinson
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