D-Line coach dishes on Osi, JPP and more

August, 4, 2011
The Osi Umenyiora holdout saga has been the lead story from Giants training camp so far, so naturally there was plenty of interest in talking to Giants defensive line coach Robert Nunn when he was made available to the media on Thursday.

Umenyiora, who wants a new contract, has yet to participate in a practice. But he has been attending practices and team meetings. Nunn confirmed that Umenyiora has been at his position meetings, including the one on Thursday morning.

"Osi's been good to me," Nunn said, laughing. "He's been fine. He's been in the meetings, participating in the meetings. He's been very good."

Nunn said he has had very little discussion with Umenyiora regarding his contract situation, and is preparing as if he will have Umenyiora available to him this season. "(I) just talk to him about being ready, whenever this thing gets started," Nunn said. "He's played at a high level for a long time, and we had a very good year, a very healthy situation last year. And we'd like to build on that. Obviously we want him here, and we'll see where that ends up."

As for the players who would have to step up in Umenyiora's absence, Nunn had extremely high praise for second-year DE Jason Pierre-Paul. JPP showed flashes of brilliance in his rookie season, recording 4.5 sacks. And remember, Pierre-Paul only started playing football in his senior year of high school, and played just one season of Division I college football (at South Florida).

"I've been around the league 12 years, and I've not coached one (player) that he compares to," Nunn said. "He's kind of his own guy -- how strong he is, and how talented, and how much range he has. We've got a long way to go, to get the technique that he needs to have to reach that potential. But I can't say enough about him. He's always wanting to do what you ask him. If he continues to do that, things are gonna work out for him."

Mathias Kiwanuka, who missed all but three games last season with a bulging cervical disc in his neck, is healthy again. He can play both defensive end and linebacker, and would likely see more time at DE if Umenyiora isn't around.

"Mathias, I can see doing a lot of different things," Nunn said. "He's a guy that can come out there and stand up (at linebacker), and the next day you could put him back down (on the D-line), and he's not gonna be lost. He's very talented. And the best thing about Kiwi is, he's (always) ready to go. ... We'll see how his roles unfold here, as we go and we learn our team."

At defensive tackle, the Giants have lost starter Barry Cofield, who signed with the Washington Redskins. The team also cut veteran Rocky Bernard last week, but then re-signed him on Thursday. Regardless, expect to see both second-year DT Linval Joseph and rookie Marvin Austin get some opportunities, alongside returning starter Chris Canty.

Nunn has been impressed by both Joseph and Austin in the first few days of training camp.

"Linval's come in here in very good shape," Nunn said. "Much more suddenness, good quickness coming off the ball. And with his size and strength, he's got a real chance. But we'll see when the pads come on, and we get started with the preseason games."

"Marvin has shown the explosiveness that you saw as a junior," Nunn said. (Austin was suspended for his senior season at North Carolina.) Very explosive player. Technique-wise, he's a long way away. But that's obvious that was gonna be that way, because he missed all the OTAs and all the offseason training."

"Right now," Nunn said, "we’re sitting in a pretty good situation with our young guys."
Kieran Darcy is an ESPNNewYork.com staff writer. He joined ESPN in August 2000 after graduating from the University of Pennsylvania, where he played four years of JV basketball.
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