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New York Giants’ Mathias Kiwanuka Has Heart Set on Playing DE; Likely to Remain in “Joker” Role

April 22nd, 2013 at 8:30 AM
By Dan Benton

'Mathias Kiwanuka' photo (c) 2006, Alexa - license: Mathias Kiwanuka was drafted to play defensive end for the New York Giants and that's exactly what he wants to do. In fact, fellow defensive lineman Justin Tuck said last week that Kiwi has his "heart set" on filling that role.

“I hope he’s a D-end. I think that’s the best position for him. I think that’s what he wants to play," Tuck said. “Obviously if you ask Mathias to play fullback he’ll run to do it. He’s that type of guy. He’s that type of player. He just wants to do what’s best for the team. But I know his heart is set on playing D-end and I think that’s what he’d be successful the most in."

With Osi Umenyiora now a member of the Atlanta Falcons, it opens up the opportunity for Kiwi to return to defensive end full-time — which is certainly something a lot of fans would like to see as well. Ultimately, however, it's not going to be his choice or the choice of defensive captain Justin Tuck. It will come down to the decision of Defensive Coordinator Perry Fewell and will be determined based upon team need(s).

But, despite an obvious need for depth at linebacker, General Manager Jerry Reese feels, so long as the unit remains healthy throughout the season, Kiwanuka will, indeed, see increased snaps at defensive end this coming season.

"From my view I think he will probably play more on the defensive line more than he played at linebacker in the past — just from my view. But that is Coach Coughlin’s call. You guys can talk to him about that," Reese said last week.

Don't hold up your "victory" flags just yet, fans. Despite Reese's projection that Kiwi will play more snaps at defensive end this season than he has in the recent past, it doesn't mean he's going to make a transition back to that position full-time. In fact, Reese made it very clear that he will stay in the "joker" role, switching back-and-forth between defensive lineman and linebacker based on the situation.

"I see him as still kind of a 'Joker' type player for us," Reese.

In other words, not much is going to change for Kiwi here in 2013 save for a few additional snaps at defensive end. And with Justin Tuck and Jason Pierre-Paul both likely to receive full-time reps, and the team reportedly moving away from a constant DE rotation, it's safe to assume that most of Kiwanuka's time will be spent at the linebacker position — especially when you consider the overall lack of health many of the current unit has demonstrated over their respective careers.

There's no denying Kiwanuka is better suited to play defensive end, but the team needs him to continue his "joker" role for now, so that's exactly what he's going to do.


Tags: Football, Jason Pierre-Paul, Jerry Reese, Justin Tuck, Mathias Kiwanuka, New York, New York Giants, NFL, Osi Umenyiora, Perry Fewell

28 Responses to “New York Giants’ Mathias Kiwanuka Has Heart Set on Playing DE; Likely to Remain in “Joker” Role”

  1. Dan BentonDan Benton says:

    WHAT???!!! No. F’n. Way. Who could have possibly seen this coming? :D

    •  Hanshi says:

      Hey, don’t you waive your victory flag yet either. I’ve been saying what Demo said below all along. We won’t know for sure for a while yet.

  2.  Nosh.0 says:

    Man I’ve been getting murdered by UUT recently.

    Anyway this is why you guys shouldn’t laugh at rjhl or whatever his name is when he talks about JPP playing LB. Because the Giants under JR and TC have a misguided history at playing DE’s at LB. And in Clint Sintims case, drafting DE’s to play LB.

    Too bad JR can’t take his first round draft philosophy (Take the “A” rated prospect at a position of less need than taking the “B” rated prospect at a position of more important need) and use it in figuring out what position to play guys. Kiwi, even after his neck injury, is still probably a B- Defensive End. As a SAM, I doubt he even grades to a C-.

  3.  demo3356 says:

    He’ll take Osi’s snaps at DE and see minimal snaps at LB.. He is a very solid DE yet very mediocre SLB.. Will he see some snaps at LB? Probably, but he will be a DE in 2013. Heard that he’s already bulking back up to his 265 lb DE size..

    • Dan BentonDan Benton says:

      Because Perry Fewell always makes the smartest, most well-informed decisions based on talent? Like playing Justin Tuck at linebacker?

      •  Hanshi says:

        You’re waiving that flag to early.

      •  Hanshi says:

        If Kiwi goes to mostly DE you should write an article about how we were all right (and name names). If he plays mostly LB we’ll comment about how you were right and Fewell is an idiot.

        • Dan BentonDan Benton says:

          LoL. Kiwi could start the season at full-time DE and he’ll still end up playing more snaps at LB. It’s riddled with injury-prone players, inconsistency and lack of experience.

          But we’ll continue to revisit this as the year moves along.

          •  kujo says:

            Been right there with you all offseason Benton. Why anyone thinks its gonna be different this year is beyond me.

  4.  Krow says:

    Fewell has Kiwi slated to play ‘coverage DE’ … where he drops back into a passing lane. This will totally confuse opposing QBs. It’s brilliant.

  5.  kujo says:


    No response to my challenge?

  6.  fanfor55years says:

    He’ll play DE and occasionally play SAM in a “jumbo” defense on obvious running downs or when Fewell wants the QB to have to worry about pressure coming from Kiwi off the far edge or by looping inside.

    As for Cruz, I don’t think it’s a tough decision for Reese. The “Giants’ Way” will be team over individual; assess the value of particular positions and offer that value and no more; and always have a succession plan in place. Cruz will not be able to squeeze more than a token increase above what he’s been offered, no matter how good Condon might be. Nosh thinks it’s an interesting poker game. I think the Giants hold the hole card that wins: the knowledge that they can win with or without Cruz (much more easily “with” but that’s worth a certain amount to them and no more), and the determination that they will not set a precedent with him that can be viewed as their having given in to a player who isn’t a franchise quarterback. The only player on the Giants who can “hold them up” is Eli Manning, the front office knows that, and it is not going to allow anyone to think otherwise just because they’d like to retain a particular player.

    I’ll go further with the Cruz situation. While I love the kid, I’m not convinced he’s worth any more than what they’ve purportedly offered. He’s not a #1 receiver in the NFL, at least at this point. Perhaps he will prove to be at some point, but he had a chance to prove it in 2012 and failed. And he will NEVER be the #1 receiver for the Giants, who have a much greater need to satisfy Hakeem Nicks.

    Nope, this is an EASY decision for Reese. Hold firm, and let the chips fall where they may. And he will have 100% support, as he should, from John Mara. The fans can think whatever they like. The team has, rightly IMO, offered what they believe Cruz is worth to THIS team. Might he be worth more to someone else? Perhaps, but I think that would only be true if he proves it in 2013. He hasn’t proved he’s worth more than $7MM yet. What he has proved is he’s a GREAT complementary receiver, a game-breaker, and a really terrific kid whom the fans love. But until he proves he’s a #1 receiver, or could be because he can beat #1 corners and double-teams on a frequent basis, he is overvaluing himself. The Giants will not make that mistake.

  7.  GOAT56 says:

    Joker to me only means that in short yardage or passing downs Kiwi will be used in joker ways. But I see him being a regular down DE and not SAM for the most part. Of course if we were to draft a DE early that could change things as well.

  8.  GOAT56 says:

    Nosh re Cruz

    Really on it’s on Cruz. JR has shown he doesn’t flinch in these situations. I know you feel Cruz is different but except for Eli and maybe JPP JR will deal the same way with any player. JR has a very good over on the table for Cruz and either Cruz excepts it or JR moves forward. JR was already using past tense in terms of Cruz. Not to say he won’t return but he will move forward without him in a heartbeat if need be. JR offered more than I thought he would and that shows Cruz is valued by JR. But at the same time JR is still in the position of power because he has Cruz under control for one more year at the max of 2.89 mil unless Cruz signs the deal.

    At minimum Cruz should sign the tender ASAP just so he’s guaranteed 2.89 mil no matter if he signs long term or not. Since he can no longer get an offer sheet.

  9.  The Original G Man says:

    Greg Cosell joins Pat Kirwan in having Ziggy Ansah fall to the Giants:–nfl.html

    19. New York Giants: Ezekiel “Ziggy” Ansah of BYU. I know for many he’s a top-five player in this draft. They see the natural athleticism, the size/speed combination and the rare arm length, and intuitively project “big-time player.” That may happen. By means of comparison, Ansah did not show the kind of pass rush skills that Jason Pierre-Paul displayed at South Florida, and Pierre-Paul was seen as exceedingly raw. Ansah is not close to being a finished product, but he competed on every play, and he showed the ability to maneuver his body in almost any position necessary. His size, body type and movement profile best at DE, but I can easily see him aligned inside at DT in sub-package situations. Ansah is a fascinating prospect who needs to be taught much as a pass rusher, so there’s a significant leap of faith, but the movement and motor are there.

    •  kujo says:

      I just don’t see it. Everyone is chasing “the next JPP,” but we already have the real thing.

      •  GOAT56 says:

        I don’t either. Even Jones for the Pats was good last year with a similar background. But I have no doubt that if he’s there he’s our pick.

  10.  The Original G Man says:

    Meanwhile, I’d sign up for Rob Rang’s mock in a NY minute. He’s got us nabbing Sheldon Richardson in the first and Arthur Brown in the second:

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