Can Kiwi Make the Big Jump?

It would be impossible to start an article on the questions facing the Giants linebackers without mentioning Mathias Kiwanuka right off the bat.

Kiwi really holds the key to how well this position will fare this season. He's playing alongside a stud and a near-stud and he just needs to hold up his end of the bargain and the Giants and their fans will be very happy. There are other intriguing questions regarding the LBs. Like how well Antonio Pierce can improve on a near-perfect season, how much Kawika Mitchell can add to the defense and also how much rookie Zak DeOssie can and will be allowed to contribute. These and other questions are already beginning to be answered on the U-Albany practice fields. Read on.

Will Kiwi be sweet enough?

So far the early returns on the Mathias Kiwanuka experiment have been mixed. But he does seem to be getting more and more comfortable in his new spot. He had a huge pass breakup in a recent practice and also forced none other than Brandon Jacobs to pull up short when running a pass pattern. Another feather in Kiwi's cap has been his willingness to mix it up – both verbally and physically – when need be. He and notorious camp brawler Rich Seubert squared off in the summer's first scrap. But he also got beat by Seubert on a pass route of all things, and still occasionally finds himself out of position. Those mistakes are to be expected early. At this point, it sure looks like the Giants are going to come out looking smart by making the move – unless, of course, Michael Strahan retires and they're forced to move Kiwi back to end. And you say you want to be a GM…

An encore for AP?

There's really only one way to follow up a Pro Bowl season, now isn't there? Well, at least Antonio Pierce can shoot to be selected initially instead of being added at the last minute. But of course, we're splitting hairs here. But we're also trying to figure out how Pierce, who's a superb self-motivator, is going to find any negative talk or print to use in that department. That's because he was outstanding last season, posting 159 tackles, and he only looks to be getting better. Watching practice on a daily basis in Albany, you get the feeling that Pierce always knows what the offense is going to do. Not most of the time, but always. We're not trying to jump the gun or anything, but if we were Pierce's travel agent, we'd book a February flight to Hawaii right about now.

Will they be better in '07?

It would be a grave disappointment if the LBs weren't significantly better than they were last season. As much as we loved LaVar Arrington, he only gave them one strong game among the first six before he got hurt, and watching Carlos Emmons get beaten around the corner became almost unbearable. A more established Pierce, a much more athletic Kiwi in place of Emmons and a productive Mitchell on the weak side should be a recipe for success this year. Not to mention super rookie Zak DeOssie, who appears on the fast track to forcing the coaching staff to give him some reps. Then when you factor in the solid depth provided by Chase Blackburn in the middle and Gerris Wilkinson outside, the LBs should be a fun position to watch.

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