Mathias Kiwanuka Feeling Fresh
Entering his age-31 season, Mathias Kiwanuka desperately needs to rediscover his ‘attack the quarterback’ mojo. According to Pro Football Focus, Kiwanuka was the least effective overall defensive end in the NFL last season, amassing an unconscionable -31.2 rating (-6.7 in 2012). His standalone pass rush grade was -16.6. Upon further review of his on-field production, or lack thereof, Kiwanuka knows his 2013 was mildly inadequate:
“It wasn’t what I wanted to put on film,” he said. “When I watch it, it’s tough to watch sometimes. I was playing through some things, but it just wasn’t enough. I felt like I could have done more.”
Nevertheless, that didn’t stop Kiwanuka from griping over a salary cap restructuring this offseason, a restructuring that he agreed to. But I digress… Entering 2014, Kiwi feels mentally refreshed in a more secure and consistent defensive role:
“Honestly, this is the best I’ve felt since I’ve gotten here,” Kiwanuka said. “Some of it is time. As the time goes, you become more comfortable in a situation; playing one position and playing one side of the ball. Those kinds of things do make a difference.
If Kiwanuka’s activity level early in preseason is any indication — which often it isn’t — maybe he’s not bluffing us with this confident mindset. In 35 snaps between the two games, he’s notched two solo tackles, two stops, a batted pass and a QB hurry. Perhaps most importantly, he’s been around the football and finding his way into the backfield. Can’t make plays if you’re running in a circular motion.
Apparently Kiwi has suffered with perfectionist anxiety throughout his Giants career. Whether it was soaking up knowledge in meetings or holding himself to a higher standard during games, Kiwanuka always felt the crunch. This year, the veteran plans to take ownership of that responsibility and use it for motivation:
“It’s like the difference between coming in and being an intern and owning your own company,” Kiwanuka said. “You’re still going to work just as hard and just as diligently, but now the motivation comes from wanting to be successful. I think really this is probably the first year where I’ve noticed that difference. I’m usually over-thinking everything, every little thing. That focus is still there, but without the unnecessary pressure I put on myself.”
Kiwanuka will take the field for $1.5 million in 2014. That figure will shoot back up to $4.775 million in 2015 before he hits the open market in 2016. I ask you, Giants Nation: what does the future hold for Mathias? Clearly he’s talking the talk, but can he walk the walk on Sunday’s…?