New York Giants: Justin Tuck
ESPN.com New York Giants reporter Dan Graziano makes his game-by-game picks for the 2014 season.
Week 1: at Detroit Lions
The Giants are coming off a mess of a preseason, undermanned and overwhelmed, with the offensive line still a mess and the new offense not clicking at all. No one will pick them to win this game. Except me. Prediction: Win
Week 2: Arizona Cardinals
This one's a comedown off the Week 1 surprise, as Arizona's banged-up defense still manages to flummox Eli Manning and collect a few interceptions. It's a bummer of a home opener as reality begins to set in. Prediction: Loss
Week 3: Houston Texans
Houston's defense is as liable as Arizona's to make life miserable for Manning and the offensive line. But Houston has bigger questions on offense than even the Giants, and this is a win for the New York defense against Ryan Fitzpatrick. Prediction: Win
Week 4: at Washington Redskins
Week 5: Atlanta Falcons
The pattern continues, and the Giants overcome two Osi Umenyiora sacks to outscore the Falcons with a furious Manning comeback in the final minutes. The Giants poke their heads over the .500 mark as they make the turn into the most brutal stretch of their schedule. Prediction: Win
Week 6: at Philadelphia Eagles
The Giants don't have Matt Barkley to kick around this time when they visit the City of Brotherly Love. Chip Kelly and the Eagles show them what a truly innovative offense looks like. Prediction: Loss
Week 7: at Dallas Cowboys
The season-long debate about what gives when an anemic Giants offense meets a pathetic Cowboys defense tilts in Dallas' favor in the first meeting. Tony Romo & Co. have more than enough weapons to outscore Manning and his bunch, and the Giants hit the bye with a 3-4 record. Prediction: Loss
Week 9: Indianapolis Colts
After a long break before the Monday night home game, the Giants get taken apart by Andrew Luck, Hakeem Nicks & Co. at MetLife Stadium for a third straight loss. The offense is starting to run more smoothly, but it still doesn't have enough playmakers to outscore one of the league's better offenses. Prediction: Loss
Week 10: at Seattle Seahawks
You're kidding, right? Prediction: Loss
Week 11: San Francisco 49ers
The Giants have obviously handled the Niners in recent years and in some high-profile situations. But by this point in the season, San Francisco's defense is back to full strength, and the 49ers can't afford to lose ground to the Seahawks by failing to beat the team Seattle just beat the week before. Prediction: Loss
Week 12: Dallas Cowboys
A sixth straight loss is by no means out of the question here, as Romo and his crew still have the potential to outscore anyone in a given week. But from this far out, I'll forecast that something goes wrong for Romo late in this game, and the Giants get a gift. Prediction: Win
Week 13: at Jacksonville Jaguars
This is where the schedule starts to soften up, when the Giants start playing teams that insist on not starting their best quarterback. It's unfortunate they're 4-7 at this point and just about out of the playoff hunt, but they will get it going against the bottom-feeders. Prediction: Win
Week 14: at Tennessee Titans
I think the Titans are going to be dreadful this year, and by December they won't be very difficult for anyone to beat, even at home. A third straight victory keeps the Giants' hopes alive. Prediction: Win
Week 15: Washington Redskins
Have to be honest: The NFC East is so unpredictable that, when doing these predictions, I just decided to give the Giants a 3-3 division record with victories in all three home games and losses in all three road games. It's as fair a way as any to do it, I believe. Prediction: Win
Week 16: at St. Louis Rams
After moving back to .500 with four straight wins, the season falls apart at the hands of the St. Louis pass rush. An offensive line that has once again been the Giants' biggest problem all year can't protect Manning in a must-win game. Prediction: Loss
Week 17: Philadelphia Eagles
Tom Coughlin's teams can always find a way to play for pride. The Giants' playoff hopes are extinguished, but they still manage to end the season on a high note and with a .500 record. Prediction: Win
Predicted Record: 8-8
LANDOVER, Md. -- It's not completely accurate to say Justin Tuck needed a game like this, because Tuck doesn't really "need" anything. Yes, Sunday was the first day of the final month of Tuck's current New York Giants contract. But he hasn't been sweating that all year, so there's no reason to expect him to start now.
"This is a guy who's got two Super Bowls and a Pro Bowl under his belt," teammate Mathias Kiwanuka said after watching Tuck collect a career-high four sacks in the Giants' 24-17 victory over the Redskins Sunday night at FedEx Field. "I feel like, whatever happens with him, he's going to be fine."
Tuck thinks that, too, which is probably the reason why this contract year hasn't seemed to bother him the way it has appeared to affect, say, wide receiver Hakeem Nicks. Tuck didn’t love the fact that he only had 2½ sacks in his first 11 games of the season, but he felt he'd been playing well. He had graded out consistently well against the run all year, and he'd been jokingly calling himself "Mr. Almost" in reference to the number of times he felt he'd been very close but the quarterback got away.
"I missed some tonight, too," he said with a grin Sunday night. "Sometimes it can be hard to believe. We come in and we all say the right things sometimes, but sometimes, in the back of your head, you're thinking, 'It's time.'"
Tuck's time to get the sacks was Sunday. With fellow defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul out with a shoulder injury, Tuck and Kiwanuka weren't coming off the field against the Redskins, and they felt added responsibility to deliver in a big way. Tuck realized what he was doing was special as he was doing it, but he still managed to maintain the same mellow focus that has guided him through a 2013 season that hasn't been easy for him or the team.
"Somebody asked me on the sideline how I felt when there were three minutes left, and I said, 'Ask me in three minutes,'" Tuck said. "It's a big feat, obviously, but we have to win. If I had been standing there with four sacks and a loss, I wouldn't have given two cents about four sacks."
Tuck symbolizes so much about the Giants right now. His ability as one of their captains to keep his cool and perspective through the 0-6 start is a big reason why they've been able to win five of their last six. But looking beyond this year, Tuck symbolizes a franchise that obviously needs to rebuild while confronting difficult decisions about some of its championship mainstays.
"Everyone knows I'm a New York Giant through and through," Tuck said. "People ask me, 'Do you want to be here next year?' and that's a stupid question. Of course I do."
When the season began, Tuck was coming off a couple of down years by his standards, and it was reasonable to think he needed a big year if he wanted to convince the Giants to keep him. They have a big decision to make on Nicks, who continues to slog through a miserable contract year that's hurting his chances to return. They're confronting unwieldy cap numbers on guys such as Kiwanuka, Antrel Rolle, Chris Snee and David Baas. And of course, Tuck is a free agent. These are Giants who have won championships, some more than one. They are Ring of Honor candidates who will forever be beloved and welcomed back by the team's owners and fans. Yet, for the nitty-gritty financial reasons that govern today's NFL, it's impossible to say whether they'll be on the team next season.
"That's the way you lead," said defensive tackle Linval Joseph, who is also headed for free agency and doesn't know his Giants future beyond New Year's Eve. "You lead by showing, and tonight he had a great game."
From the standpoint of a player in a contract season, Tuck has led by example since the start of training camp. His season to date has been a clinic in focusing on what you can control and not worrying yourself silly over the stuff you can't. You would never know, from spending any time around Tuck, that he's in the final month of a contract.
"Because he's never let that be a focal point," Kiwanuka said. "You know he wants to do well, like everybody wants to do well in a contract year. And when a guy comes out and continues to work, continues to work and puts in the time day in and day out the way that guy does, you wish good things for him.
"Four sacks is huge for a guy who does all the little things that don't show up in the numbers. You look, on third downs, we're using him inside as an inside rusher. Nobody talks about that and the effect it has on your sack numbers. But coaches who are evaluating what we do can tell you he's having a very good year. I'd be very surprised if he's not back here next year."
That didn't seem likely three months ago, and it might not be the case. But the way Tuck has played and handled himself this year has set him up well. And after a night like Tuck had Sunday, you start to think Kiwanuka might just turn out to be right.
Defensive end Justin Tuck (back) and wide receiver Hakeem Nicks (groin) will not play tonight against Pittsburgh.
Tuck missed two practices this week with tightness in his back. Nicks hurt his groin last week and the team wants to be cautious.
Tom Coughlin already ruled out right guard Chris Snee (hip) and cornerback Terrell Thomas (knee/hamstring) earlier in the week, since the two vets just recently came off the PUP list.
Tackle James Brewer (concussion), wide receiver Brandon Collins (hamstring), tackle Justin Pugh (concussion), safety Cooper Taylor (hamstring) and running back Ryan Torain (concussion) also will not play.
Defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul (back), fullback Henry Hynoski (knee) and defensive tackle Markus Kuhn (knee) are on the PUP list and will not play.
For all of the accolades he’s received and the generous spotlight afforded him as a member of the New York Giants, two-time All-Pro defensive end Justin Tuck had yet to capitalize on his star power with a scripted prime-time television appearance.
Look for the Giants’ soft-spoken defensive captain when he guest stars on Wednesday night’s episode of “Necessary Roughness,” USA Network’s pro football-centric, one-hour drama series.
“I’m not that big of a star,” Tuck said with a chuckle Tuesday. “Sometimes it takes a little longer than you might think. But I got the opportunity to do something different, and I jumped on it. It was a fun experience, and I got an opportunity to work with great people.
“I mean, I think everybody in America knows Uncle Jessie.”
That’s right, Tuck makes his non-commercial acting debut alongside John Stamos, the former star of ABC’s “Full House.”
Now in its third season, “Necessary Roughness” is pulling away from the fictional New York Hawks football team to focus on V3, a sports and entertainment agency run by Stamos’ Connor McClane.
In the episode airing Wednesday at 10 p.m. ET, McClane hosts Tuck at a charity gala, where the Alabaman walks the red carpet and ribs Terrence “T.K.” King (played by Mehcad Brooks), the Hawks star who’d missed out on an endorsement deal with Subway, a brand Tuck endorses in real life. The sandwich shop’s signage can be seen in the background.
That’s no coincidence.
“Subway is a big sponsor of the show,” Tuck acknowledged. “I don’t know how my name came up -- I’m not the most talented guy -- but I was lucky to get the part.”
The cameo is just the latest development in an eventful offseason for Tuck, who turned 30 in March. On Father’s Day, the Notre Dame product welcomed his second child into the world, Jonah Frederick Tuck. And in the spring, Tuck attended a four-day seminar hosted by famed life coach Tony Robbins, who got the defensive end looking inward -- and walking on hot coals.
Tuck credited a new mindset in noting that he expects to bounce back from two consecutive lackluster seasons.
“This year I’m going to worry about myself and not other people,” Tuck said. “Critics are going to say a lot of things about you. If you play great, or bad, they’ll say things about you. I haven’t played to my normal stats the last two years, so for me, this offseason has been about working and blocking everything else out. My focus is to work my butt off to get in the best shape, physically and mentally, and I think I’m there.”
That, of course, means Hollywood will have to wait.
“If there’s an opportunity to do more acting after football,” he said, “then I’ll explore that. But right now my focus is family and football.”
And that explains Tuck’s low-key plans for Wednesday night, when his episode airs.
“I’ll probably be at home,” he said, “changing diapers.”
You can check out Tuck’s scene in the video above, courtesy of USA Network.
The discussion turned to whether or not an NFL player would ever feel comfortable enough to be openly gay among his teammates and in public, and Tuck said he imagines he’s played with quite a few gay men already, and sexual orientation isn’t an issue for him.
"I could give a damn,” Tuck said. “... The goal is to win football games."
He said the media attention on the issue made it a bigger deal than it would be to players in the locker room. Any player who could help the Giants win football games, gay or straight, would be a welcome presence, Tuck said.
"The reaction to a gay player will be more an issue in bars and on a fan’s couch than in the locker room," Tuck said.
Tuck first tweeted his support during the Super Bowl, after the 49ers' Chris Culliver made several disparaging remarks on a radio program.
All three played key roles in helping the Giants win the Super Bowl just over a year ago. And Bradshaw helped them win two Super Bowls.
"You are always surprised when you lose guys who have been very integral in what we have done over the years," Tuck said at the Founders Dinner gala at Cipriani Wall Street on Tuesday night. "But you also understand the business side of it, and at times like this you wish those guys wouldn't have been part of it, but it happened."
Tuck has seen Jerry Reese and his staff make painful bottom-line decisions before, and he has seen the results.
"From what I understand in conversations I have had with guys, it was a money issue, you got to cut cap," Tuck said. "Those guys (management) have done a great job over the years of building a team that can be successful and I don't see why we can't trust in the fact that they know what they are doing up there.
"Those decisions aren't easy decisions," Tuck continued. "I am sure Jerry and everybody up there had some tough times and some tough conversations about them. They felt as though it needed to happen and they went forward with it."
The Giants reportedly cleared $13.75 million to get below the salary cap with those three moves. The Giants likely still have to clear more room to sign some free agents like tackle Will Beatty, tight end Martellus Bennett and left guard Kevin Boothe.
They also have restricted free agents to sign, like wide receiver Victor Cruz, safety Stevie Brown and running back Andre Brown, and there will also be draft picks to sign.
So the Giants may very well have a few more tough moves regarding some longtime veterans. Tuck, who is entering the final year of his contract worth $4.5 million in base salary, is not expected to go anywhere. He said the Giants have not approached him about his contract.
As for how the Giants will replace three key veteran personalities and leaders on the team, Tuck said the they will find a way.
"Anytime a guy was hurt or a guy is leaving or cut, there is always opportunity for somebody else," Tuck said. "We got guys on this team that need to step up and play better and do whatever role is needed from the coaching staff to have a successful football team. As OTAs and training camp comes in, we will figure all that out."
"Some people speculate that we might have a chance to get some of them later on," Tuck added of Canty, Boley and Bradshaw. "But either way, you are just wishing them -- wherever they end up -- success, and hopefully they continue with their great careers."
So far, we have analyzed quarterback, running back, wide receiver, tight end. and offensive line.
2012 depth chart: DE Jason Pierre-Paul, DE Justin Tuck, DE Osi Umenyiora, DE/LB Mathias Kiwanuka, DE Adrian Tracy, DE Adewale Ojomo, DT Linval Joseph, DT Chris Canty, DT Rocky Bernard, DT Marvin Austin, DT Markus Kuhn.
Free agents: Umenyiora, Bernard, Tracy (exclusive rights free agent), DE Justin Trattou (exclusive rights free agent).
2013 personnel preview: The Giants will need more production from Pierre-Paul and Tuck, especially if Umenyiora isn't back. ... The Giants could always potentially move Kiwanuka back to defensive end. ... The Giants could sign another pass rusher in free agency or draft one. ... Tracy could emerge as the Giants' extra pass rusher. Ojomo also showed potential last preseason. ... The Giants will have to figure out who will start alongside Joseph now that Canty was let go. They re-signed Shaun Rogers to plug the middle. After missing all of last season due to a blood clot, Rogers will attempt a comeback. Austin should get opportunities in camp to show that he is ready for a bigger role. Kuhn exceeded expectations last season before tearing his ACL. ... Bottom line is that the Giants' defensive line has to be more dominant in 2013.
Salary-cap situation: Umenyiora is a free agent and is looking for more a lucrative contract and a starting job –- two things the Giants likely cannot give him. But he did leave the door open for a potential return. ... Tuck is entering the final year of his contract and vows to have a vintage Tuck year. ... The Giants shaved cap space by releasing Canty and re-signed Rogers to a cheap low-risk deal. There's always the possibility they could add another veteran defensive lineman in free agency.
Tell us what you think of the Giants' defensive line going into 2013 and what you want to see happen in the offseason.
“I started doing some things where I look at myself and I was like, 'Why did I do that?' You just trying to make a play and it ends up working the wrong way for you,” Tuck said on Tuesday at Madison Square Garden at a Garden of Dreams charity event. “It’s just frustrating.”
Tuck said he’s “super motivated” this offseason to have “a normal Justin Tuck year” in 2013.
“That’s what it’s going to be for me, getting back to the Pro Bowl, All-Pro type status that I’m accustomed to playing at,” Tuck said. “I’ve been watching film of myself the last couple weeks and it’s just frustrating to see that I haven’t played to that standard and that’s going to be a definite focus for me.”
Tuck finished last season with just four sacks and struggled at times against the run. He played in the final two weeks of the season with a shoulder injury but insisted Tuesday he is healthy and will not undergo offseason surgery. He has been working diligently with nutritionists and trainers to return to form.
“That’s going to be a huge focus for me to make sure I do my due diligence this offseason, training and eating the right things to make sure that next year is a normal Justin Tuck year compared to last year,” Tuck said.
Tuck averaged slightly fewer than 10 sacks per season from 2007-2010 and had at least 59 tackles in each season. In the past two seasons, Tuck had five and four sacks, respectively. He played 12 games in each season.
The eight-year veteran will participate in the “Garden of Laughs” event on Saturday at The Theater at Madison Square Garden to benefit the Garden of Dreams Foundation.
TUCK LIKES BALTIMORE: Tuck, who has won two Super Bowls with the Giants, thinks the Ravens will beat the Niners in this year’s Super Bowl.
“Obviously both of those coaches know each other very well (but) I’m leaning toward Baltimore just because they seem to be a team of destiny,” said Tuck, who said he will not watch the game. “It reminds me of some of our Super Bowl wins of a team getting hot and a team with a great leader in Ray Lewis and a quarterback that’s playing lights-out in (Joe) Flacco.”
So Tuck’s reaction to the news that Te’o’s girlfriend was an Internet hoax was one of utter shock.
"Crazy," Tuck said on Tuesday at a Garden of Dreams charity event at Madison Square Garden. "You want to reserve your judgment on anything until all the facts are out but it’s just a crazy, crazy, crazy thing."
Te'o asserts he was tricked into an online romance with a woman named Lennay Kekua and, until last week, did not understand he was being hoaxed into believing Kekua, a fake internet persona, was a real person.
Tuck didn’t want to offer any final judgments on Te’o’s ordeal because he'd "never been in a situation like that." He believes that Te'o did not have anything to do with the hoax and he was just "gullible" enough to be convinced that Kekua was real.
"Obviously for him, like he said, it’s an embarrassing thing. I know Te'o, I helped recruit him and I know that he’s one of the nicest guys I ever met in a football uniform. So I believe him when he says he doesn’t have anything do with it," Tuck said. "He was just that gullible. And I think he’s embarrassed with the fact that he’s just that gullible. That lets you know how nice of a guy he is and how genuinely real of a guy he is.
"Again, it’s just an unfortunate situation that somebody would try to take advantage of a situation like that and use a guy that has a good heart for whatever benefit they got out of that."
Tuck was at the Garden to promote the sale of six paintings by Garden photographer George Kalinsky to benefit the foundation. Kalinsky painted portraits of Tuck, Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist, Knicks center Tyson Chandler, former Knick Walt "Clyde" Frazier, former Ranger Adam Graves and members of The Sopranos cast.
With defensive end Justin Tuck questionable for Sunday's game against Baltimore, Tracy is in line to potentially see a boost in snaps if the veteran can't go. It seemed earlier this year that Tracy would be a bigger part of the defense after his first sack against San Francisco, but that never translated.
"(I'd be) Ecstatic. This is what you want to do. You want to play. You want to get out on the field and you want to contribute to the team and do anything to help them win," Tracy said. "In San Francisco, when I got the opportunity, I was on cloud nine and if it presents itself this week, I'll have the same feeling."
Tuck did not practice all week and it's up in the air if he will be able to go. The Giants depth chart currently has Tracy as the backup to co-starters Jason Pierre-Paul and Osi Umenyiora on the right side, and Mathias Kiwanuka as the backup to Tuck. Giants head coach Tom Coughlin said he'll have to see when asked if Tracy would be in line to see a boost in playing time.
A sixth-round pick in 2010, Tracy has bounced back and forth between linebacker and defensive end in his short tenure with the Giants. He registered the first sack of his career against San Francisco on Oct. 14, and thought he might see a tick in his playing time because of it. The team had found a combination defensive end/linebacker position for him, and he responded with a strong showing in brief action.
Eight games later, Tracy has received just 20 snaps since, including four games when the team didn't use him on defense at all. In the last three games, he's only had three defensive snaps, all of which came in the blowout win against New Orleans. The momentum that was supposed to keep Tracy on the field just hasn't materialized as the Giants enter the final two games of the season.
"There was a role that was made for me and they thought that I played well at that position and I thought that my role would increase, but in due time," Tracy said. "Things happen."
Tracy said he's been pretty much playing as a defensive end this week, and wants to be sure that there isn't a drop off if he gets to play.
"Every week I go into the game plan prepared," Tracy said. " I get my mentality right to focus on what is required of me in the different positions that I fill and that’s what you want to be is prepared at all times in case something happens where you’re called on."
As Antonio Pierce wrapped up his career in 2009, teammate Justin Tuck was developing into one of the top young defensive ends in the league.
Now, as the once-vaunted Giants pass rush has seemingly regressed, Pierce sees a noticeable difference when he analyzes the Giants' defensive captain.
"I played with Justin Tuck and have a tremendous respect for him. But he has not been the same player emotionally, mentally or his play in the last three years. It's just the facts," Pierce said on The Michael Kay Show on ESPN 98.7 FM on Friday. "He came on late last season and once Antrel Rolle and a couple of other guys said he had to pick it up, but for the most part, he's a situation, third-down, passing situation defensive end."
As the Giants pass rush has faltered this season, as the Giants are tied for 16th with just 32 sacks, Tuck's inefficiencies have been magnified as the Giants head into their final two games. After registering 28 sacks from 2007-09, Tuck has just 19 1/2 sacks the past three years, including eight the past two seasons. This year, he has just three.
Pierce played with Tuck from 2005-09, and doesn't believe Tuck's playing good football for the defending champions at the moment. Tuck has dealt with injuries over the past two years, including a shoulder injury that might sideline him this week against Baltimore, but he hasn't approached the level he played at in 2010 when he had 11 1/2 sacks.
Pierce couldn't put his finger on what exactly he believes is the difference in Tuck, but he has noticed that Tuck isn't showing the same fire he showed several years ago. Tuck did talk last season about considering retirement because of personal and family hardships.
"For me, the guy I played with, when he was there, a lot of energy, a lot of passion, brought it each and every play, each and every snap, loved to play the game," Pierce said. "I heard him mention it last year before the run [that] he didn't know where his mind was at, or if he was into the game. His comments this week, the same thing. As much as I want to give the answer, that's really a question he has to answer."
He added: "When you watch him on Sundays, you do not see the energy, you do not see the fire he used to play with. And I don't know why. I don't know if it's personal stuff going on or maybe he's physically tired."
While Tuck's play has been dissected, the team's scheme also has come under fire. Giants defensive coordinator Perry Fewell has led top sack units with the Giants, but he can't push the right buttons this year. Pierce wondered if the coordinator was doing enough to allow his players to be successful.
"Has Perry Fewell adapted? Has he gone above and beyond scheme-wise and trying to move these guys around, standing them up, coming up with different looks?" Pierce said. "You see it every once in a while. But not enough."
Running back Ahmad Bradshaw (knee/foot), center David Baas (hip/shoulder), guard Chris Snee (hip), cornerback Prince Amukamara (hamstring), safety Kenny Phillips (knee) and wide receiver Hakeem Nicks (knee) were all working. It was tough to judge how much Phillips and Amukamara were actually doing but they were on the field.
“I never called them a dirtbag,” Tuck said.
Prior to the Giants and Falcons wild card meeting, Tuck said he knew the Falcons’ offensive line had a less-than-stellar reputation for playing past the whistle.
“We know they have that quote-unquote reputation," Tuck said before the Giants beat the Falcons 24-2. "But in a way it kind of is exciting. Most people, you would call them dirtbags. But it is what it is. We got to make sure we do our job and if we are doing our job well, then they will be upset and they will be trying to do things to get us off our game and we got to take that as a compliment. But in the same sense you got to protect yourself and hopefully the referees have 20/20 vision."
Tuck steered clear of saying anything controversial this week.
He also said the Falcons never said anything to him while on the field during the wild card game.
“No,” Tuck said. “Because I think they read the whole quote and saw me say that never did I call them a dirtbag. Smart guys down in Atlanta.”
Giants defensive line coach Robert Nunn said his stable of pass-rushers need to do a better job of creating opportunities to get to the quarterback, which stems from being better against the run. While The Giants are tied for ninth with 25 sacks, that would put them on pace for eight fewer sacks than 2011.
"(We need to improve) as far as creating situations, playing the run better, being more sound against the run," Nunn said. "Nobody in the league is going to rush the passer on 2nd-and-3. We want to create down-and-distances. Like 2nd-and-8, 2nd-and-9, 3rd-and-long, 3rd-and-7-plus, that's when your pass rush will show up more and hit the quarterback and get more disruptions."
While sacks are the statistic that garners the most attention, Nunn said his unit still is disrupting the quarterback at about the same pace as in 2011. Disruptions include pressuring a quarterback, which is perhaps a better indicator of a defensive line's success, as well as batting balls down at the line. Nunn said the Giants have been as good as anybody in the league doing that the past three years.
Creating better situations for the pass rush involves putting opponents in harder down-and-distance situations. By being more effective on first and second down, the Giants can put their opponents into pure passing situations, which allows the line to pin its ears back. The Giants are in the middle of the pack in the NFL by allowing 113.8 rushing yards per game. A better run defense would help pass-rushers like Justin Tuck, Osi Umenyiora and Jason Pierre-Paul.
"Have they been getting to the quarterback? No, not as much as we want to," Nunn said. "I don't think they are rushing any different than they have in the past. That haven't had the opportunities, in which we created them in the past, and that's the thing we have to do a better job of ... creating those opportunities to get them to the quarterback."
In Sunday's loss to Cincinnati, the Giants didn't record a sack, struggling to get close to quarterback Andy Dalton. Giants defensive coordinator Perry Fewell said there was a lack of production up front and while the Bengals had some tactics to counter the rush, the team expects its front four to get there.
The Giants tried to create some opportunities Sunday with some new personnel, as they used Adrian Tracy and Mathias Kiwaunuka more in their packages.
Whenever the pass rush struggles, though, the focus will always be on the trio of Tuck, Umenyiora and Pierre-Paul. The threesome has a combined 13 1/2 sacks on the year, which is currently fewer than Pierre-Paul registered by himself last year.
Nunn said Tuck has had a few games where the defensive end didn't play as well as he wanted to, but he thinks the veteran is close to getting to that level. He added that Umenyiora has been solid and his pressures have been there, and Pierre-Paul has been solid against the run.
"They are going to get all the focus, that's the position they have put themselves in," Nunn said. "We have to go make improvements in areas that we can make improvements in and control the things that we can control."
“[He spoke of] the resiliency of the people in New Jersey and New York area, and how they’re tough and no matter what they’re not going to let these circumstances dictate to them,” Giants defensive tackle Chris Canty said. “They’re going to come back. They’re not going to let it affect what they do. Just that kind of strength.
“Just understanding that when we take the field on Sunday, that we represent these folks. That was the message, and it was a timely message and an important message.”
Coughlin said Odierno, who has 10,000 soldiers in New York City, was there Friday morning to address the team without even being asked. Coughlin has been known to bring in military officers to address the team before games. Players shook hands and spoke with some of the officers who attended practice Friday afternoon.
“I think they will take forward the toughness, the resiliency of the people in this greater New York-New Jersey-Connecticut, the entire Eastern Seaboard, that’s been affected in such a way by this huge storm. I think that the message is the toughness here, the resiliency,” Coughlin said. “We will not be stopped by the storm. We will come back. We will fight our way through this. We will get things right again. Just the pride that has been demonstrated to the general this morning, I think he verbalized very well for us out here.”
The players all spoke positively of the message about playing for those affected in the area. Defensive end Justin Tuck talked about the team trying to help the situation by going and playing a great football game Sunday, and then getting in the communities and doing what they can to help. Linebacker Mark Herzlich talked about fighting back.
Canty doesn’t believe there’s any pressure playing Sunday knowing there will be plenty of people tuning in to watch the Giants for some enjoyment after what’s been a disastrous week. “I don’t think it’s pressure as much as it is an honor and privilege to represent the people of this great city, these two great states, all our fans especially amid all of the loss, all of the damage and construction,” Canty said. “Just to be able to provide a sense of normalcy, even for a couple of hours. It’s important for our football team.”
Defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul said the team will be giving its all against the Steelers.
“We’re going to go out there Sunday and play our hearts out,” Pierre-Paul said. “It’s going to be a great one.”