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Justin Tuck: Giants are heading in the right direction

Former New York Giants defensive end Justin Tuck, who was openly critical earlier this year about the Giants previous management regime having wasted quarterback Eli Manning’s prime, thinks the new management regime of general manager Dave Gettleman and head coach Pat Shurmur have begun to create a more stable environment in which Manning has been able to flourish.

Tuck, in an appearance on the LockedOn Giants podcast to promote his work with the NFL’s Crucial Catch campaign, said in the half-hour interview that Manning can still get the job done.

“I know Eli very well and I know how much the game of football means to him and how much he puts into it and loves to win. The last two years have been tough,” Tuck said.

“The last two years haven’t worked for him personally, but I know for a fact that guy can still play the game very well, and hopefully over the next few weeks, he and the team can overcome the hole it created in the first half of the season.”

While Tuck acknowledged that the game is changing toward more of the mobile quarterback, the position description and basics have not changed.

“The game is changing but it’s still a game where you have to be able to protect the quarterback in the pocket and give him opportunities to throw the ball downfield,” he said.

“In the next couple years, the game will evolve a little more, but I feel that right now you can still win with a quarterback who is a pocket passer if you set the offense up around him.”

Tuck also spoke about the Giants defense, particularly the lack of a pass rush. He said that without looking at the specifics found in the film, he believes a big part of the problem behind the team’s struggles to get sacks has been a lack of opportunities.

“You have to have opportunities. Most pass rushers or most teams with a high amount of sacks generally get a lot more opportunities to get them,” he said.

“When you’re behind in games, you’re not going to have the other team passing the ball a lot as the game goes on. I was very blessed to have a lot of talent around me, but we also had a lot of opportunities because we were leading games in the fourth quarter because we dictated that the team, we were playing against would have to pass the ball. That hasn’t been the case with the Giants this year because they have been losing.”

Tuck, a well-known philanthropist who founded the R.U.S.H for Literacy campaign with his wife Lauran, has been lending his voice to the NFL’s Crucial Catch campaign, a year-round commitment with the American Cancer Society that tries to raise awareness about cancer and the importance of getting screened on a regular basis.

Tuck was drawn to the cause after meeting Evan Sullivano of Middletown, New Jersey, a cancer patient who lost his battle with leukemia on October 26, 2010 at the age of 18.

Sullivano, who struck up a friendship with Tuck that lasted until his passing, gave Tuck a green bracelet emblazoned with the words “Brick Strong,” “Brick” being his nickname during his Pop Warner days.

“The NFL is doing a great job of partnering with the American Cancer Society and in having created the Crucial Catch campaign,” Tuck said.

“The biggest thing has been the education piece. That’s the one thing I’ve definitely seen help families out. The NFL has developed a free app called The Defender which educated people on things they can be doing to reduce their chances of getting any kind of cancer.”

Tuck said in the long-term the hope it to eradicate as many forms of cancer as possible, but that in the short-term, the goal is to spread awareness to as many people as possible.

“Since 2012, the NFL has provided over 200,000 early screenings for families and also has had the ability to touch over 600,000 people by providing additional education on what the cancers are and how to deal with them.”

Listen to the full interview with Tuck here, in which he talks about his thoughts on Odell Beckham Jr.’s ESPN interview, the struggles of the Giants defense, the importance of leadership in the locker room, and much more.

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