The New York Giants pass rush has been very inconsistent this season. Jason Pierre-Paul was leading all Giants pass-rushers heading into the Week 12 match-up against the Green Bay Packers with 6.5 sacks. The unit just hasn’t been able to apply consistent pressure throughout the first 10 weeks of the season.
However, this past Sunday, the Giants were able to sack Aaron Rodgers five times and applied pressure throughout the game, forcing Packers Head Coach to abandon his original game plan to preserve his quarterback’s health.
One of the key factors of the reinvigorated pass rush might have been the shift of Mathias Kiwanuka from linebacker to the defensive line. Kiwanuka has played the majority of this season at linebacker and the Giants pass rush has not been the force that it has been in years past. Coincidence? Maybe, but Kiwanuka’s two sacks, three quarterback hits, and six tackles while playing defensive tackle might say otherwise.
Moving forward, the Giants would be wise to use Kiwanuka more as a down lineman instead of linebacker. Kiwanuka is much better at rushing the quarterback than he is at dropping into coverage. Let’s also not forget that two years ago, Kiwanuka was leading the team in sacks through the first three games before suffering a serious neck injury that cost him the rest of the 2010 season.
Kiwanuka’s presence on the defensive line creates a dilemma for opposing offensive lines as Justin Tuck, Osi Umenyiora, and Jason Pierre-Paul all represent threats to the quarterback. When the four of them are on the field it means that almost every time two of them will have a one-on-one matchup.
The win over the Packers should only reinforce the coaching staff’s decision to continue to play Kiwanuka at defensive tackle or defensive end. The defensive line has been the main cog for the defensive machine and letting Kiwanuka pursue the quarterback only makes the unit that much better.