When the New York Giants drafted Mathias Kiwanuka in the first round of the 2006 NFL Draft they were hoping they were getting a future cornerstone on the defensive line. However, in the 2008 season, the Giants decided Kiwanuka was athletic enough to play strongside linebacker and moved him off the line. Kiwanuka performed well as a linebacker but his best performances came with him as a down lineman.
Last season, Kiwanuka moved back to his natural defensive end position against the Green Bay Packers and Kiwanuka responded with two sacks and five solo tackles as the Giants beat the Packers 38-10. It was that performance and Osi Umenyiora’s departure through free agency that convinced the Giants they would be better off moving Kiwanuka back to defensive end.
So far this season, Kiwanuka has been almost invisible recording only four combined tackles, two solo, through the Giants’ first two games. To make matters worse, Kiwanuka was out of position during one of Knowshon Moreno’s touchdown runs in the Week 2 loss to the Denver Broncos. He was completely boxed out on that play which is not characteristic of Kiwanuka at all, regardless of where he has played.
While he has never been an outstanding football player, Kiwanuka has been a very good one at times. This season, many expected him to enjoy a breakout season, especially in getting to the quarterback. So far, that has yet to materialize.
The Giants need Kiwanuka to step up. So far, the Giants’ defensive ends have fallen well short of expectations. Justin Tuck looks like he might be having a bounce back season but Jason Pierre-Paul is still recovering from back surgery and DaMontre Moore has missed the first two games causing the Giants’ expected strength to be more of a paper tiger in 2013.
There is still plenty of time for Kiwanuka and the rest of the pass rushing posse to turn things around this season but the Giants need the pass rush to come along soon, as in this week. This week’s match-up against the Carolina Panthers will be a good barometer since Moore is expected to play and JPP is another week removed from surgery. The Giants should be fielding a full rotation at defensive end, allowing Kiwanuka, Tuck, JPP and Moore plenty of rest while they try to get to Cam Newton.
Will this be the game where Kiwanuka and the rest of the Giants’ pass rush finally have an impact? The Giants had better hope so. The time for excuses is running out and the time to step up is now. The Giants need Kiwanuka to be a productive member of the defensive end rotation and so far he has fallen short of expectations.