Capitals

Kiwanuka clutch at two positions for Giants

201211252114764807372-p2.jpeg

Kiwanuka clutch at two positions for Giants

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) When Mathias Kiwanuka signed a contract extension with the New York Giants earlier this year, he understood his job was to be a wild card in the defense.

Kiwanuka is somewhat of a rarity in the NFL. A two-position player, the seven-year veteran is listed on the roster as a linebacker, but he plays as much on the defensive line, his natural position.

This past week in the Giants' impressive 38-10 win over Green Bay, Kiwanuka spent the entire game on the line because coordinator Perry Fewell wanted a little more pressure on Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers.

Kiwanuka led the charge, snaring two of the five sacks for the NFC East-leading Giants (7-4).

Where Kiwanuka plays Monday night against quarterback Robert Griffin III and the Washington Redskins (5-6) remains to be seen. Even the 29-year-old doesn't know where he will be.

``I want to be able to be on the field, be prepared, and be effective,'' Kiwanuka said Wednesday in a conference call. ``That's my main thing. If I'm out there helping the team, then I'm good in that spot. I said all along that defensive end, that's my natural position. That's where I feel most comfortable, but when we get all four pass-rushers out there on the field and we can go up and down the line and mix and match, that creates favorable matchups, so I have no problem with that either.''

The constant shifting has not been a problem for Kiwanuka, who was drafted as a defensive lineman in 2006. He talked with general manager Jerry Reese and coach Tom Coughlin after signing a three-year extension in April, so he knew what was expected.

There are weeks where Kiwanuka plays both positions. He's a linebacker in the normal 4-3 front and switches to the line in passing situations. The hard part is preparing for the dual role. It means splitting practices with the linebackers and linemen and alternates meetings with both groups.

``When I have to go back and forth, there's just a lot more preparation that goes into it, but I seem to always be able to get it done. Even though you don't think there's enough hours in the day, somehow we get it done,'' Kiwanuka said. ``The coaches are pretty good about it. When you're playing a team, and they say, `This is how we're going to use you, just as a defensive lineman,' it's a lot less preparation involved and really just going out there and playing ball like I've always done.''

Kiwanuka plays both the end and tackle positions, so that means the Redskins line will have its hands full. Washington left guard Kory Lichtensteiger expects to go against Kiwanuka on - at least - a couple of plays.

``It's a pretty rare thing that you can move a linebacker to a three-technique and have him be effective,'' Lichtensteiger said. ``He's just so big, I think his length and his agility inside presents a little bit of a different matchup for us. But they're so big and long everywhere on defense, it's hard to say he's any more of a problem than any of the other guys they've got inside.''

Right guard Chris Chester described Kiwanuka as elusive.

``It's something you expect out of a defensive end, and as an interior lineman you don't necessarily see a lot of those types of rushes,'' he said. ``So it's going to be a unique challenge.''

Kiwanuka didn't do much in the Giants' 27-23 win over Washington at MetLife Stadium on Oct. 21. He had three tackles, including one for a loss. And it's hard to say how the Giants will approach the Redskins this week because Griffin is so tough to defend with both his ability to throw and run. So, who knows where Kiwanuka will be.

If safety Kenny Phillips is healthy - he aggravated an injury to his right knee in Sunday night's win - New York might use three safeties and two cornerbacks. That would allow one of the safeties to shadow Griffin and might limit Kiwanuka's playing time in the base defense.

Whatever defense the Giants use, they can't afford to play like they did last year in their second meeting with Washington. It was a no-show effort in a 23-10 loss that dropped New York to 7-7 with two games left in the regular season.

Remarkably, the Giants beat the Jets and Cowboys to win the division and then stormed through the postseason to win a second title since 2007.

The loss to Washington was their last.

``The lesson we got out of that was, when you're playing a divisional opponent, it doesn't matter what the records are, or what you're ranked in the conference, or anything like that,'' Kiwanuka said. ``We're two teams that have seen each other a lot. We know what each other is capable of, and it's going to come down to desire more so than the Xs and Os. When you throw that option package in there, that may be something you have to focus on, but whenever you're playing somebody in your division, you have to be prepared for anything.

``It's always going to be a rivalry game.''

If the Giants win it, they can take a major step toward a second straight division title.

---

Online:http://pro32.ap.org/poll andhttp://twitter.com/AP-NFL

---

AP Sports Writer Joseph G. White in Auburn, Va. contributed to this report.

Quick Links

NHL Awards tracker: Where would the Caps' offense be without Ovechkin?

usatsi_10625303.jpg
USA TODAY Sports

NHL Awards tracker: Where would the Caps' offense be without Ovechkin?

The Hart Trophy is given to the player judged to be the most valuable to their team. With the Caps currently struggling in almost every aspect of the game, consider this: Just where would they be without Alex Ovechkin?

Washington ranks 10th in the NHL in goals per game with 3.05. Ovechkin leads the NHL in goals with 36. He has scored an incredible 19-percent of his team's goals. No one on the Caps is within 20 goals of the Caps' captain.

That's not a typo. Evgeny Kuznetsov ranks second on the team with 16 goals. No other team in the league has a larger separation between its top two scorers. In fact, only three teams have a difference that's in the double digits: Vancouver (11), San Jose (10) and New Jersey (10).

Ovechkin is almost singlehandedly propping up Washington as a top-ten offense. If you think about just where this offense would be without him, there's a pretty strong case to be made that Ovechkin is as valuable to his team this season as any other player in the league.

SEE THIS WEEK'S 2018 NHL AWARDS TRACKER HERE

Here are the Caps' hopefuls for awards this season:

John Carlson

In contention for: Norris

Carlson is fifth among all defensemen with 45 points, but his case goes beyond the numbers. With a blue line that has featured two rookies the majority of the season, an aging veteran in Brooks Orpik and that had to deal with an injury to Matt Niskanen, the Caps have asked a lot of Carlson this season and he has always been up to the task.

Alex Ovechkin

In contention for: Hart

Few players, if any, are as important to their team's offensive production and therefore its success than Ovechkin has been this season.

Check out who the top candidates are for the league's major individual awards in this week's 2018 NHL Awards Tracker!

Quick Links

Wizards vs. Hornets: TV, live stream and radio info, things to watch

usatsi_10549712.jpg
USA TODAY Sports

Wizards vs. Hornets: TV, live stream and radio info, things to watch

Bradley Beal, Otto Porter, Kelly Oubre, Jr. and the Washington Wizards battle Kemba Walker, Dwight Howard, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and the Charlotte Hornets on Friday night.

Here is all you need to know: TV, live stream and radio info, tip-off time, plus three things to watch:

WASHINGTON WIZARDS VS. CHARLOTTE HORNETS

Where: Capital One Arena
Tip-off: 7 p.m.
TV: NBC Sports Washington (coverage begins at 6 p.m.)
Live stream: NBCSportsWashington.com
Radio: 1500 AM

On a roll

The Wizards have some serious momentum going right now. With an impressive win over the Cavs on Thursday, they have now won three straight games and eight of 10 since John Wall went down with a left knee injury. They had a week off due to the All-Star break, but didn't show any rust at all in their first game back.

The Wizards are now 34-24, 10 games above the .500 mark. They are fourth in the East and could move into third on Friday if they win and the Cavaliers lose. Even with Wall out, things continue to look up for Washington.

PODCAST: BIGGEST STORYLINES COMING OUT OF ALL-STAR BREAK

Hornets have had their number

The Wizards haven't done so well against the Hornets so far this season. Charlotte has taken both meetings and that includes a 24-point win on Jan. 17. That game featured Dwight Howard taunting the Wizards late in the fourth quarter.

Howard has killed the Wizards through two games with averages of 22.0 points and 14.0 rebounds. Jeremy Lamb (20.0 ppg vs. Wizards) has been a big factor as well as All-Star Kemba Walker (21.5 ppg vs. Wizards).

The last time these teams played about a month ago frustrations boiled over in an incident that got Tim Frazier ejected. Michael Carter-Williams picked a fight with Jason Smith and Frazier went off:

RELATED: BEAL IMPRESSED BY LEBRON AT ALL-STAR GAME

Hornets coming in hot

The Hornets are outside the playoff picture at the moment at eight games below .500, but they have won two straight games and Walker and Howard are coming off huge games. In a win over the Brooklyn Nets on Thursday, Walker dropped 31 points and Howard grabbed 24 rebounds.

Those guys will be riding a high coming into Washington on Friday. But it should be noted that Howard complained after the game how tired he is at this point in the season. That exhausion could affect him more in the second game of a back-to-back.

RELATED: LATEST NBA POWER RANKINGS