Justin Tuck knows good football when he sees it.
The New York Giants legendary defensive end and two-time Super Bowl champion might have retired in 2015, but he still has his pulse on his former team and the NFL.
Speaking exclusively with Metro New York on Wednesday while promoting his fantasy football league through Draft Kings, Tuck expressed his high hopes for the Giants this season, which starts in just a few days.
“I think the Giants are going to have a great season. That’s predicated on the team staying healthy,” he said. “I love what they did during the offseason, bringing in [wide receiver] Brandon Marshall. I really do think they gave [quarterback] Eli Manning a lot of weapons on offense.”
While Marshall, a six-time Pro Bowler with over 12,000-career receiving yards, was signed as a free agent from the New York Jets, the Giants also added Ole Miss tight end Evan Engram via the draft to provide another dangerous pass catcher to an arsenal that already includes Odell Beckham Jr. and Sterling Shepard.
The dangerous-looking offense will be heavily reliant on the protectors of Manning and the playmakers, which has provided Tuck with some reservations.
“Obviously, I’m a little worried about the offensive line. But I think Eli is the type of quarterback that can make them better,” Tuck said. “I think a lot of the success of the line can be improved by Eli’s play and knowing that there are certain issues that can be hidden if he can get the ball out of his hand.”
It’s nothing Manning isn’t used to. Although he was sacked just 22 times last year, third-least in the NFL, the veteran quarterback was constantly hurried and harassed by opposing defenses, which played a part in his 16 interceptions.
Should the offensive line keep Manning upright and give him time, Tuck sees some silverware in their future.
“If [the offensive line steps up], I don’t see why they can’t have one of those long, typical great seasons where we end up hoisting the Lombardi Trophy,” Tuck said. “I really think this team has that capability.”
That’s only one-half of the ball, though.
When it comes to the defense, which was once his, he likes what he sees.
“I think they are going to be a top-five-caliber defense,” he said. “I think that defensive line has three superstars [Olivier Vernon, Damon Harrison and Jason Pierre-Paul] and a lot of quality players to compliment them.”
The group of pass rushers came alive in the second half of the season to help fuel the Giants to a playoff berth.
But when it comes to the player that has caught his eye most? You have to go to the secondary.
“I think [cornerback] Eli Apple — if I was going to say someone that has surprised me — I thought he had a pretty decent preseason,” Tuck revealed. “I think he made some strides from where he was his rookie season to now.”
Preparing for his second year in the NFL, Apple is just a part of a Giants secondary that boasts big-time talent like Landon Collins, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and Janoris Jenkins.
“It’s a lot of guys on that defense that can really be game changers and can take it to the next level,” Tuck said.