OK, Big Blue View Nation, let's put up our dukes and get down to it. On and off throughout the off-season the subject of which defensive end -- Osi Umenyiora or Justin Tuck is better -- has come up. So, let's have at it.
Who ya got? Are you siding with the Chief? That, of course, would be Umenyiora, coming back from a year away due to injury to attempt to re-claim his throne Or, are you taking Tuck, the young stalwart who ascended to the mountaintop in Osi's absence?
There is no doubt which side of this argument I am on. I am taking Tuck, and I'm not hesitating for even a second. I have been saying for two seasons that Tuck is the better player, and I am not changing my stance now.
Before I go through all of my reasoning, since this is a fight we have to list all of the relevant details. So, we go to the Tale of the Tape, as it may be.
Tale of the Tape
Size: 6-foot-3, 261 pounds
Years Pro: 5
Career Sacks: 41.5
Career Tackles: 297
Pro Bowls: 2
All Pro: 1
Size: 6-foot-5, 274 pounds
Years Pro: 4
Career Sacks: 23
Career Tackles: 214
Pro Bowls: 1
All Pro: 1
Now, let's get to the meat of the argument.
Let me start with my feelings about Osi. I love the guy, and I know how much he can bring to the table if he is fully healthy and returns to the elite level he once played at.
But, and this is the big but and the place where I know I am about to get myself in trouble with some of you. Here's the thing. The truth is Osi has not been a great player since the 2005 season.
OK, OK. Are you done screaming at me, throwing things at the monitor and swearing you will never read anything I write ever again? Good. Now go look at the numbers -- they back me up.
In 2005, Umenyiora had a monster season with career-bests in both sacks (14.5) and tackles (92, an average of of nearly six per game).
In 2006, he played just 11 games due to an injury. He compiled just six sacks, meaning he was on pace for about 8, and just 38 tackles (barely more than 3 per game).
In 2007, he did have 13 sacks. If you recall, though, (and I'm sure you do) six of those came in one game against overmatched Eagles rookie Winston Justice. That means in the other 15 games he had just a very pedestrian six sacks. Also, he had just 64 tackles that season.
You can blame it on injuries, if you want. To be fair I am certain his troublesome knee has had something to do with it. The reality is, though, that since 2005 Osi has had one -- yes, one -- great game. The rest of the time he has been very mediocre or not in the lineup at all.
In '07, when he played every game, Umenyiora tended to disappear for long stretches. He had two games where he did not even register a tackle, and went through a five-game stretch where he compiled just one sack and 11 measly tackles (combining solo tackles and assists).
I really, really hope that we see the 2005 version of Umenyiora in 2009. Otherwise, we will be seeing a guy who has a super star reputation, but -- other than that one season -- has not posted super star performance.
Now, let me move on to talking about Tuck.
In four seasons -- really only three since he played just six games in 2006, mostly on special teams -- the Notre Dame grad has become one of the best defensive ends in the sport. In each of the past two seasons, he has made 82 tackles (a number Umenyiora has only surpassed once). He has 22 sacks in those two seasons.
I maintain that, even in 2007 when Tuck was listed as the backup and playing fewer snaps that Umenyiora or Michael Strahan, that he was the best defensive end the Giants had. Tuck had 10 sacks and 82 tackles in 2007, compared to Osi's 13 and 64 -- thus, making more plays while being on the field less often. For good measure, Strahan's numbers that season were 9 sacks and 57 tackles.
I would also argue that Tuck's versatility in being able to move around to all the different spots on the line adds to his value, as does the fact that during the past two seasons he has shown tremendous consistency. He never had a game in 2008 where he did not make at least two solo tackles, and he had four games with more than one sack. Aside from his awesome six-sack game in 2007, Umenyiora had one two-sack game in 2006 and one two-sack game in 2007. That's it.
I think it's impossible to argue that Tuck is not the more productive of the two players at this point in their careers. It seems to me that Osi, right now, needs to prove his performance can still match his reputation. Tuck, on the other hand, is just making his reputation.
That said, I would love to see both guys post career years in 2009.