EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- The New York Giants have the worst pass rush in the NFL this season, and defensive end Justin Tuck in particular has come under fire, with some people saying the 30-year-old is washed up.
Tuck took issue with that assessment Thursday, as the 0-6 Giants reconvened after two days off to begin preparing for Monday night's game against the Minnesota Vikings.
"If I was the only one having a bad year numbers-wise, then that would be easy to say, 'Justin doesn’t have it anymore,'" Tuck said. "But when Kiwi’s not having a good year, JPP’s not having a good year, Cullen’s not having a good year, whoever else is not having a good year -- you might want to look into it a little deeper than just numbers."
Tuck has a point. He only has half a sack to his name, but teammates Mathias Kiwanuka (1.5 sacks), Jason Pierre-Paul (1.0) and Cullen Jenkins (0.5) haven't exactly been busting through offensive lines, either.
As a team, the Giants have just five sacks, the fewest in the league. That puts them on pace for between 13 and 14 sacks this season. Since the NFL began counting individual sacks as an official statistic in 1982, the Giants' lowest sack total was 25 in 1992.
What makes the Giants' difficulty getting to the quarterback even more stunning is, this was once a team strength. From 2004 to 2012, the Giants had 367 sacks, third-most in the NFL. Just two years ago they posted 48 sacks in 16 regular-season games, en route to winning the Super Bowl.
"Times have changed," Tuck said Thursday. "Believe me, I still remember the good ol’ days, when you lined up and you just felt like any time you went against a guy you were gonna beat him."
"You still feel that way," he added, if not convincingly. "I don’t know -- you gotta find some way to create the pass rush."
Coach Tom Coughlin talked last week about trying to be more creative in order to do that. But on Thursday he made it sound simpler.
"I think what has to happen, for us is, we've got to do a better job in these one-on-one situations," the coach said. "It basically comes down to, 'I've got to beat this guy.'"
Tuck may have some tread on his tires, but the Giants' other starting defensive end, Pierre-Paul, is 24 years old. He should be in his prime.
Yes, Pierre-Paul is coming off offseason back surgery. But Tuck doesn't believe that's the problem.
"I honestly think it’s more mental than physical with JPP at this point," Tuck said. "He really wants to go out there and play and play well, and when it hasn't happened for him, I think he takes it hard. The people around him have to keep him built up, cause he’s a helluva football player."
Tuck and Pierre-Paul must lead the way if the Giants are going to rejuvenate the pass rush this season. The Vikings have given up 14 sacks in five games, putting them in the middle of the pack in that category. Quarterback Josh Freeman will be making his Minnesota debut on Monday night.
The Giants are going to have a hard time beating anybody if they don't get to the QB.
Tuck made some other good points on Thursday -- for instance, that teams game-plan around the Giants' D-line by running a lot of short routes and getting rid of the ball quickly. Plus, the Giants have played 360 minutes of football this season and have only led for 30 minutes and 59 seconds -- it's easier to rush the quarterback when your opponent is behind and forced to put the ball in the air.
But the bottom line is, the Giants' pass-rushers need to find a way, physically and/or mentally, to beat the men in front of them.
"There is a way," Tuck said. "We just haven’t figured it out yet."