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'Friday Five' With Pat Traina, Let's Go Running Edition

It is Friday morning, and that means time for our weekly 'Friday Five' segment with Pat Traina of Inside Football. This week's topics include the health of Justin Tuck, the Giants' struggles with both run defense and running the ball themselves, and the play of linebacker Mathias Kiwanuka.

Be sure to stop by Inside Football to read my answers to Pat's questions.

Ed: It feels like the Giants are hiding -- or at least not talking about -- the severity of whatever the issue is with Justin Tuck's neck. Is it possible we will not see Tuck for a while? If so, give me your thoughts on how much that hurts the defense.

Pat: I think they're erring on the side of caution, which they should given the extent of the injury, and hoping for the best. I would be lying if I said I wasn't concerned -- even when Tuck had his shoulder problem I never saw him quite like this before. Tuck is their best and most complete defensive player, so if he's not in the lineup, you definitely miss something. I'd personally rather he be shut down for a few weeks to get himself right and be available for when the Giants have to face Green Bays, Patriots, Saints, Cowboys, Eagles, etc.

Ed: Let's talk about the poor run defense the past couple of weeks. In your mind is that mostly a function of committing so much effort to stopping the big pass play because of the quality of receivers the Giants faced, or are there some serious issues or breakdowns that need to be addressed?

Pat: Interestingly, I just did an analysis on this topic and while I initially thought it was the personnel, I think there have been other fundamental issues such as gap control and guys overrunning their men. Deon Grant made an excellent point - he and Kenny Phillips, who are part of the Big Safety package, are built like linebackers so they should be able to handle the run (and they did so last year, as I recall). I think it's been many little correctable things, and I know that it's been a priority for them in practice this week, so we'll see how they do.

Ed: Any idea how the Giants plan to use Justin Tryon? From what I have been able to gather he seems like a pretty decent player who was caught in the middle of a bad organizational situation in Indianapolis.

Pat: I think you're going to see him more against the slot receiver and on special teams. Interestingly, during his media session on Wednesday, everyone was fussing about how quickly he could learn the Giants defense. That's the wrong question to ask. The right thing to ask is how quickly did he think he could learn the assignments for this week, and he told me that while he was confident of being able to absorb any package he'd be given, the biggest thing for him - and any player for that matter - is learning the language and the hand signals.

Ed The Giants, obviously, have not run the ball as well as they expect to. What are your thoughts on why they are struggling so much to open some holes?

Pat: I think a lot of it starts up front. I was talking with one of the offensive linemen about this, and he admitted there are still verbal and nonverbal communication issues that are happening. Now normally when you have something like this happen, your fullback should be able to clean things up. Problem is you have a rookie in there who while very promising, is still trying to wrap his hands around what he has to do before he can worry about what other guys are supposed to do. So I think that's a part of the problem as well. Finally, while I see promise from Jake Ballard at tight end, I'm not ready to jump up and down over his blocking - I think it was telling that they used Stacy Andrews as a blocking tight end on a handful of running plays last week

Ed Let's spotlight Mathias Kiwanuka this week. To my eyes, he has done OK this year but hasn't done anything special -- either as a linebacker or when he is lined up as a defensive end rushing the passer. How do you feel about what you have seen from Kiwanuka thus far?

Pat: Personally I think his talents are being wasted at linebacker. He's not good in space - never really has been. He's much better with his hand in the dirt, yet I think because of the injury situation, they have no choice but to play his at linebacker. But I can pretty much guarantee you that won't be the case next year.