Some fans may not even know that infamous New York Giants middle linebacker Harry Carson didn’t start out in that position. He was drafted in 1976 as a defensive end out of South Carolina State, but then-linebackers coach, Marty Schottenheimer, saw something else.
Using players for more than one skill position isn’t new to blue. Frank Gifford played on both offensive and defensive sides of the ball and is probably the most notable to Giants history buffs. Old school coaches around the league still live by this rule of versatility – because it works. Many current and former Giants players can tell stories of how they didn’t get quality playing time because they lacked special teams proficiency. Tom Coughlin is of that breed.
Most of these multipurpose players are on the defensive side of the ball for this current team. They can line up anywhere and help create confusion. A handful of the defensive backfield players can play both positions of safety and corner. A few of those can also play a hybrid linebacker-type too, which frees up the linebackers to “roam” or add to the upcoming NASCAR package or something else ever-evolving from defensive coordinator Perry Fewell – like the three safety look which was a scheme created primarily due to injuries (ironically) at linebacker. It’s also one that worked on both ends of the Big Blue D.
One recent film floor proof of this is DE/LB Mathias Kiwanuka. This past game versus Green Bay showed that once his LB spot is free to “come off the field,” he’s available to go right back to what this first-round pick in 2006 can most definitely do: play defensive end and get after the quarterback. He recorded six tackles (five solo) and two sacks – pretty stealthy stats for a defensive lineman.
"I definitely love being down there," Kiwanuka said. "As a football player, that's what I'm most used to…there's going to be times when I'm used at linebacker and there will be times when they need me as a defensive lineman. I'm good as long as I feel prepared going into that game, I'll play whatever…the coaches are pretty good about it. When you're playing a team, and they say, 'This is how we're going to use you, just as a defensive lineman,' it's a lot less preparation involved and really just going out there and playing ball like I've always done…I want to be able to be on the field, be prepared, and be effective," he said. "That's my main thing. If I'm out there helping the team, then I'm good in that spot."
The largest advantage to players like Kiwi isn’t just flexibility on the gridiron – it’s their willingness and openness to be that guy. The guy that just wants to be out there and help in any way possible. The guy that puts the team first. The guy that knows what he has where is and embraces it. The guy that is humble in victory and strong-willed in the eye of adversity. The guy that is a large part of what the New York Football Giants are when they truly abide by: Team First, Team Last, Team Always.
Also…Football, Frank Gifford, Harry Carson, Mathias Kiwanuka, New York, New York Giants, NFL, Perry Fewell, Tom Coughlin