With Jason Pierre-Paul's return uncertain, the Giants' once vaunted DE rotation has been thrown for a loop. The team has plenty of players in the ranks to choose from, but none with the skill set of JPP, who is simply irreplaceable. Although the hopes are that JPP can make it back for the beginning of the season, head coach Tom Coughlin has to handle this as if his star DE will not be ready by Sept 8th.
Until then, Coughlin is expecting the Giants to deploy their 'next man up' strategy.
"I think somebody else has got to come along and play," the coach said. "We have plenty of talented guys. Let’s step up and go. There are more opportunities for younger guys – we need them. There it is, you can see it. Competition is looking right at you. You don’t even have to go any further than the first game. So that is the way I would look at it – opportunity."
Quality is an issue, and the team will now have to fast track some of the younger guys they have been developing: Adrian Tracy, Justin Trattou, Matt Broha, Adelwale Ojomo and rookie Damontre Moore.
"We have to keep going" continued Coughlin. "We have to advance some of these young guys. And the next guys have to come along. What I have seen has been a day here, a day there, where different people have stood out. Tracy has done a good job. The one kid who has been sick for a couple of days (Moore) but he has had his flashes, too."
The Giants will be moving former first round pick Mathias Kiwanuka back to DE. He has been used as a "joker" and OLB for several years now. With Justin Tuck aging, and Osi Umenyiora in Atlanta, it was time the team ended the experiment.
"That is a natural spot for him," said Coughlin. Asked if the move was permanent, the coach replied: "For the time being. That was the intent at the beginning of the spring and there is no need to change that now."
The team can always move him around if needed, but it appears he'll be back playing with his hand in the dirt at DE and Moore will be tried as the "joker."
"That decision was already made. That was a decision we made going into this year. Having another man down means that we’ve all got to step up and I’m ready to do the job," Kiwanuka said today. "I’m ready to go. It’s easy for me to slide back into that position because that’s what I’ve been doing."
When asked how big it is to have such a versatile player such as Kiwanuka, the coach expressed its importance.
"Oh, it is large," said Coughlin. Kiwanuka said he is comfortable no matter where the Giants put him:
"It’s been a long road for me. I’ve been starting at multiple positions. I’ve been up and down and back and forth. Moving around and changing… that’s not the big deal to me. The big deal for me is going out there and making sure that I do my job correctly and when I get the opportunity, I make the best of it."
Kiwanuka feels confident he can pick up the slack in JPP's absence:
"There’s no doubt in my mind. That was the position I came into this league playing and I’m looking forward to the opportunity. Obviously, we would love to have him back and I’m sure he’ll be back ready to go at a certain point, but we’re not going to rush him back for any reason."