It wasn’t long ago that New York Giants defensive end Justin Tuck was among the best all-around defensive ends in the NFL. Over the course of four years he recorded 39.5 sacks from 2007 to 2010. However, in recent years Tuck’s production has tailed off which could lead to his future with the Giants being in doubt.
Tuck, 30, signed a five-year, $30 million extension that is set to expire after this season making the former All-Pro a free agent. Right now, Tuck, along with the entire Giants’ pass rush, has struggled this season. He has recorded only .5 sacks this season after coming off a four sack season last year and a five sack season in 2011. The two-time Super Bowl champion is an unquestioned leader on the defense but the Giants aren’t paying him for his leadership skills.
Tuck’s lack of production can be attributed to neck injuries that have plagued him since 2011. Although he has been healthy this season and did appear in 15 games last season, something has clearly changed in Tuck’s game and it has had a ripple effect along the entire defensive line.
The Giants will be looking to upgrade along the defensive and offensive lines, two areas that could quickly become costly depending upon how they choose to address the issue. Tuck is proving to the Giants that he is not a part of the long-term fix.
GM Jerry Reese will have to make a decision with Tuck. Does he re-sign the veteran for a largely discounted rate in hopes that Tuck can at least contribute to the team in a more limited role or does he just move on altogether? You could make a case either way but ultimately, it looks like Tuck’s time with the Giants is reaching its nadir.
The Giants need to get younger and more athletic at defensive end. Of course, the Giants were hoping for a bounce-back year from Jason Pierre-Paul which hasn’t happened and they were hoping for more of a contribution from Cullen Jenkins, Mathias Kiwanuka and Damontre Moore. Moore has battled injuries all season dating back to training camp and Pierre-Paul is coming off of back surgery which could be playing a part in his lack of production this season. No matter which way you slice it, this current group of pass rushers isn’t getting the job done and Tuck has continued to regress this season.
The Giants will need to move on from Tuck this off-season which might be best for both parties. Maybe Tuck’s style doesn’t fit the Giants’ system anymore. Maybe the system is failing Tuck or vice versa. Maybe Tuck’s body is failing him. It could be that Tuck still has lingering effects of his neck injury and it is affecting how he gains leverage on offensive linemen. Only Tuck would know the answer to that. Maybe Tuck doesn’t have an answer.
There could be several reasons why Tuck’s production has dropped off the face of the earth but it will be up to Reese this off-season to fix it. Sadly, Tuck, one of the cornerstones of two Super Bowl victories, could be playing his last games as a New York Giant.