A few Giants will enter this season with chips on their shoulders. Cornerback Corey Webster, who took a pay cut to stay with the team, is seeking a bounce-back campaign, and second-year running back David Wilson wants to show that he's capable of starting.
Moreover, defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul, who had back surgery in June, will be trying to regain his destructive form of the previous season. But no player on the team has more to prove than "old man" Tuck, who is entering his ninth year with the Giants.
Tuck is viewed as one of the team's leaders, the heart and soul of the defense. He helped power Big Blue to a pair of Super Bowl victories, cementing his status as an all-time great. However, the former All-Pro lineman collected only four sacks in 2012, his lowest total since an injury-shortened campaign in 2006, as New York's powerful pass rush experienced a power outage. The G-Men had 15 fewer sacks this past season than they did the year before when they bagged 48. Consequently, the defense was trampled for a single-season club record 6,134 yards.
Tuck shouldn't take all the blame for the team's defensive woes, but his decline is symbolic of the team's struggles. Only three years ago, he recorded 12 sacks, 76 total tackles and caused six fumbles. Over the last two seasons, he has a total of nine sacks, 82 tackles and one forced fumble. Injuries have been a factor, but Tuck hasn't been the same since 2010 and he knows it.
"I don't think I've played as consistently as I've wanted to," Tuck told Yahoo! Sports' Shutdown Corner in June. "I haven't played anywhere near where I wanted to play, and I hope this year changes all that."
Don't misunderstand, there are more important players than Tuck on the Giants. The team isn't going anywhere without quarterback Eli Manning and it can be argued that Pierre-Paul is the key to the entire defense. But the G-Men need for Tuck, who at 30 years old is entering the final year of his contract, to turn back the clock and prove he has something left, especially with Osi Umenyiora no longer around.
Tuck has made Pro Bowls and won Super Bowls, but returning to elite form at his age, after all the bumps and bruises his body has absorbed, is going to be one of his greatest challenges. If he can bounce back and defy the odds this year, there's a good chance the Giants will do the same.
Will Justin Tuck rebound this season? Can he still make a difference on defense? Let me know in the comments section below.
Adam Martini is a freelance sports writer with more than 15 years of experience covering amateur and professional sports for several print and online media outlets. He tracked the New York Giants for Yahoo! Contributor Network during the team's Super Bowl run in 2011-12. Adam can be found on Twitter @Pegcitysports.
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