John Fennelly, Lead Writer
Justin Tuck left the Giants for greener pastures in Oakland this offseason after a decade as a staple on Big Blue’s defense. Last season, he led the Giants in sacks. How he would be replaced was the major question on everyone’s lips.
Well, truth be told, Tuck’s career was in a nosedive statistically until he salvaged it with 9.5 sacks in the final six games of the 2013 season. Injuries had been nagging at him and the Giants and his falling production was also affecting his ability to lead as the team’s defensive captain, even though he was integral in the 2011 Super Bowl run.
When the time came for Tuck to cash in in free agency, the Giants apparently had a number in their heads, one that did not match the number in Tuck’s head. He signed with the Raiders for 2 years, $11 million.
The Giants moved on, too. This week they signed an underachieving former first-round draft pick of the Denver Broncos, Robert Ayers. He seems to fit the Giants’ initiative of investing in free agents under 30. Tuck just turned 31. Ayers is 28 and more cost-effective at less than $2 million per year.
Reese is also looking for players who are entering, or still in, their primes. Tuck’s best football is likely behind him. Ayers, who played OLB his first few seasons in Denver, is seen as a player on the rise.
Our colleague, Matthew Cohen, illustrates that Ayers, a strong run-defender, may actually be an upgrade over Tuck.
According to Pro Football Focus, Justin Tuck had the following statistics in 2013:
Ayers had the following stats in Denver last season at DE:
Sacks: 4 (yes I know that this is less than the official 5.5)
I multiplied Ayers statistics by 1.74 to gross them up to adjust for Tuck playing more snaps. This is what I got:
Tuck had a few more sacks but the total pressure plays is roughly the same. On third down, a hurry that leads to an incompletion is almost as good as a sack. The vast majority of the time, the QB is not sacked. Hurries, while not as exciting as sacks, speed up throws that generally leads to incompletions or short passes, short of first down yardage.