New York Giants defensive end Justin Tuck was part of the problem in 2012. As a team captain and leader of the defensive line, Tuck failed to produce up to expectations last season. His four sacks were his lowest total since only playing six games in 2006. Tuck was only 29 years old last season; however, he played as if he was getting ready to retire in the near future. With the impending departure of Osi Umenyiora, the Giants needs Tuck to rebound and have a productive 2013 campaign.
Although Tuck was a key aspect of Big Blue's Super Bowl run in 2011, he's been unproductive for the majority of the past two seasons. He turned a corner prior to the final six games of 2011, but he only had five sacks on the year and 37 tackles. He followed that up this season with more unimpressive numbers, which has raised concerns about his future with the team. Recently, Tuck had a "long conversation" with general manager Jerry Reese about how he can improve for the upcoming 2013 season.
"Obviously, Justin hasn’t played as well as we think he can play and what kind of player he has shown to be in the past," Reese said. "And he knows that. Justin and I recently had a really long conversation and talked about some of those things, and he really wants to get back to the old Justin Tuck and be the player that we know him to be."
Talking about how poorly Justin Tuck has played is not going to make him a better pass rusher. However, on multiple occasions, Tuck has talked about how he has mentally psyched himself out and tried to do too much during games. That may be true, but the harsh reality is that Tuck is aging and has lost a step. He's a 29 year old defensive end who is still employing the same methods and techniques as he did when he was 26. That's a recipe for disaster.
After watching Tuck this year, he lacks the explosiveness to get around linemen after initial contact. After making initial contact, he was unable to make plays and force quarterbacks out of the pocket. He played with poor leverage and his body language was questionable at times. Earlier this February, at the Super Bowl in New Orleans, Tuck admitted that he was ineffective in 2012.
"I pressed," Tuck said. "I could just tell I was not allowing the game to come to me, trying to make plays when really, there wasn’t plays to be made. I know that sounds funny, but sometimes in plays, in certain calls and certain plays, your job is to make sure that nothing bad happens. It isn’t for you to have a sack or cause a fumble, whatever it may be."
The Giants need Justin Tuck to be productive in 2012. As a player entering a contract year, Tuck will have every incentive to rebound next season. The first step to becoming a contributing member of Big Blue's defense is for him to realize he's no longer the player he once was. He's not going to overpower offensive linemen anymore, and he's not fast enough to blaze past them off the line of scrimmage. Tuck is still athletic enough to play in the NFL, he just needs to find alternative methods in which to produce. If he doesn't, he will likely be wearing another uniform in 2014.
Also…Football, Jerry Reese, Justin Tuck, New York, New York Giants, NFL, Osi Umenyiora
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