Giants move 2006 pick Kiwanuka to linebacker

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Mathias Kiwanuka is changing
positions and moving into the New York Giants' starting lineup at

Coach Tom Coughlin and general manager Jerry Reese confirmed
Sunday that the Giants No. 1 draft pick in 2006 would move from
defensive end to strongside linebacker next season.

Reese said the move had been planned for months and it had
nothing to do with the draft, which the Giants wrapped up Sunday
with four more picks.

"There is no question that he can make the transition to
outside linebacker, that he can play SAM linebacker," Reese said,
noting that the 6-foot-5, 265-pound Kiwanuka is athletic and
dropped into some zone pass coverages last season while playing

Reese also said that Kiwanuka can be an every down player.

The linebacker spot has been a concern since Reese waived
veterans Carlos Emmons and LaVar Arrington in a salary cap move
earlier this year.

New York signed former Kansas City Chief Kawika Mitchell in the
offseason. It was thought that he would be the strongside
linebacker and Antonio Pierce would be the middle linebacker. The
weakside position seemed up for grabs with Gerris Wilkinson, Chase
Blackburn and Reggie Torbor in the mix.

Reese repeatedly said the Giants had enough linebackers, but he
never told anyone Kiwanuka might move.

Kiwanuka was asked about such a move during the offseason
workouts, but he indicated no one had talked to him about it. He
started nine regular season games at defensive end and one in the
playoffs, finishing with 55 tackles, four sacks, two interceptions
and two forced fumbles.

"We have him penciled in as our SAM linebacker, so linebacker
wasn't a pressing need for us," Reese said about an hour after the
draft finished. "You probably thought it was, but it wasn't for

Moving Kiwanuka is an attempt to get another good player on the
field. Michael Strahan and Osi Umenyiora both went to the Pro Bowl
in 2005, but missed considerable action last season with injuries.

Kiwanuka played well replacing them, although he is best
remembered to letting go of Tennessee quarterback Vince Young on a
fourth-down, fourth-quarter play because he was afraid of being
called for a roughing penalty. The mistake was magnified when the
Titans rallied to win.

"We want our best players on the field, so we penciled the guy
in a long time ago," Reese said.

Coughlin said the experiment with Kiwanuka will pick up steam
this spring.

Reese said Mitchell and Wilkinson are on the depth chart on at
weakside linebacker, and not necessarily in that order.

The Giants addressed the linebacker position Sunday in the
draft, taking Zak DeOssie of Brown on the fourth round. He is the
son of former Giant Steve DeOssie, who played linebacker here from
1989-93 and was a member of the 1990 Super Bowl champions.

Reese expects the younger DeOssie to be a backup and special
teams player. He can also long snap.