One thing has been apparent as the New York Giants have meandered to a 3-2 record: the defensive line is not what we're used to seeing from Big Blue in recent years. Chris Canty returning from the Physically Unable to Perform (PUP) list in a couple weeks should be a boost, but the Giants sure need some help on the outside as the pass rush and run containment just haven't been there, leaving Jason Pierre-Paul, Justin Tuck and Osi Umenyiora scratching their heads.
And for our money, Mathias Kiwanuka is our best bet for helping the defensive line reassert its ability to control a game.
Before we talk about Kiwanuka, let's point out that the only five NFL teams have less sacks than the New York Giants. And that's only half the problem: Demarco Murray ran for 131, LeSean McCoy for 123, and both DeAngelo Williams (4.5 yards per carry) and Trent Richardson (67 yards and a touchdown in the first half) were gashing the Giants up until their teams fell behind and had to throw the ball.
But really, we don't think anyone who has watched the Giants through five games will even try to dispute that the line hasn't been itself. Gumble seemed surprised at the line's lack of pressure last week, but Collinsworth (who apparently does his homework a little better) solemnly admitted two weeks ago that this unit just may not be what it once was.
So, in steps Kiwanuka. He's physical enough to set the edge with an offensive tackle in his face and as quicker than most guys his size when he has to beat a running back to the outside.
Firstly, he puts a fourth healthy body in the defensive end rotation; Tuck does not appear in any position to be playing the amount of snaps he's been seeing. Secondly, he allows Umenyiora to shift into a more pass rush focused role, where he thrives; we've seen too many running backs (and quarterbacks for that matter) use Umenyiora's upfield move against him to run for big games…and Tuck has failed to seal his edge off a handful of times himself.
The kicker: the Giants have PLENTY of talent to fill in at linebacker when Kiwanuka puts his hand in the ground.
If/when Keith Rivers is healthy this seems like a no-brainer to us. But in the meantime, we like seeing young Jacquian Williams on the field and, crazy as it may sound to some of you, Spencer Paysinger looked pretty good in short yardage situations last week (a situation where Kiwanuka also thrives as a DE).
Look, we (read: me) wrote about Kiwanuka playing DE way back in the preseason and he popped into our mind when our Monday Morning Hangover didn't contain much revelry in the prior day's win and instead was filled with worry about the defensive performances that have seen guys like Brandon Weeden and Josh Freeman have enough time in the pocket to chew our defense up.
There's plenty of time for this season and the team to evolve, but five weeks is a big enough sample size for us to know that there IS a problem that needs fixing. Canty might be one solution, but there's no difference makers at defensive end you can bring in off the street at this point.
Good thing the Giants have one playing linebacker.
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