It had been a few weeks since Mathias Kiwanuka was sidelined by a disc problem in his neck, but the official word last week that he was going on injured reserve for the season made an impact on his teammates, especially defensive captain Justin Tuck. Kiwanuka's versatility in being able to play both defensive line and outside linebacker will be missed, but so will the intelligence and leadership he brought to the job.
"We kind of knew it was heading that way, but until it happens, you never really think about it," Tuck said. "He's a huge talent, and he's going to be missed. Somebody is going to have to step up and try to fill that void. It's a huge void, and right now, we just wish him all the best in his recovery. We hope to get him back next year."
The obvious choice to take on a greater pass-rushing role on the defensive line is first-round draft choice Jason Pierre-Paul, a raw talent who has great athletic ability but has been slow to make a big impact other than special teams. Exaggerating only slightly, Tuck said it would take about five people to do all the things Kiwanuka was doing, but Pierre-Paul fits in the mix.
"Certain things that Kiwi was able to do, we aren't going to put on Jason at this point in time," Tuck said. "As the season goes on, he will be asked to do some of those things. It takes just about every d-lineman. Kiwi played every postion on the d-line and some linebacker, so, multiple people have to step up."
Tuck said he had a good conversation with Pierre-Paul about his increased responsibility, and said he's seen improvement every week from the rookie. "You don't want to put too much on him and stunt his growth," Tuck said. "I think the coaches have done a great job trying to throw little things at him each week. He's growing, and so, we're going to continue with that approach."
Pierre-Paul admitted he has been a target for some veteran discipline at times. When Tuck overheard Pierre-Paul telling reporters he sometimes gets sleepy in meetings, Tuck just shook his head and said, "That's a $400 fine right there."