Markus Kuhn will likely get his second NFL start on Sunday against the 49ers. While he was not downplaying his role in the win against the Browns, he knows more will be expected of him this time.
“It might be a little more important,” he said of his role, which will be about matching the physical play of the 49ers and helping to stop the NFL’s top rushing team.
“They’re a really good football team,” Kuhn said this week. “They’re good at running the ball. I know what we have to do to stop them.”
Rocky Bernard was ruled out for the game today, so that leaves the Giants with only starter Linval Joseph, Kuhn and Marvin Austin at tackle. Some of the defensive ends can slide inside in a pinch, but a lot will be put on the shoulders of the true defensive tackles.
“The two of them have got to be big factors in the game this weekend, obviously because of the run,” Coughlin said of Kuhn and Austin. “They’re going to have to play as well as they’ve ever played. Hopefully, they’re prepared to do that.”
Kuhn seemed to think he is.
“There are definitely things I have to improve on,” he said, reflecting on his first start. “I made some plays but I have to play better in some things … Pretty much every time you step on the field you learn about yourself, you get better, and you see what you have to get better at.”
Defensive coordinator Perry Fewell expressed much more confidence in Kuhn than Austin, who is still trying to come back after missing nearly three years of football. Austin, who was a second-round pick last season, played in just his third game against the Browns.
“I thought Markus Kuhn performed pretty well,” Fewell said. “I think Marvin is still a work in progress. He still needs a lot of work. He still needs a lot of reps. The talent is there.”
But when it comes to the starting lineup on Sunday, expect Kuhn to be there.
Kuhn said he definitely felt “like a rookie,” especially early in the game. But as he found his legs, he said, “I definitely felt like I can play with these guys.”
As for matching the 49ers’ physicality, Kuhn said he’s excited for the challenge.
“You saw from last year it was an extremely physical game when you watch the film,” Kuhn said. “They’re a physical group, but we are not shy of that. We’re excited to play a physical game.
“I like big, physical games,” he added. “I like rivalry games. This is the New York Giants against the San Francisco 49ers. I’m not doing this for a long time, but I still know how big of a game this is and it’s going to be really exciting. We play football to play in games like that.”