Defensive end Justin Tuck won two Super Bowls with the New York Giants. He was brought to Oakland for not only his production as a pass rusher and run defender but his leadership as well. On Oct. 11 against the Denver Broncos, Tuck exited the game with what would turn out to be a season-ending injury.
Tuck led the Raiders with five sacks a year ago. He may have only recorded one so far this year but he had already matched last year's total of three batted balls at the line of scrimmage.
The 11-year veteran's impact on the Oakland Raiders defense goes far beyond statistics. The defensive captain's leadership will be sorely missed. Tuck's situational awareness and field presence are invaluable to the Raiders defense. He, and defensive co-captain Charles Woodson, give inspirational pregame speeches and are the glue that keep the defense together.
"The thing about Tuck is, (he) is a leader amongst men so I don't think as far as his leadership and what he brings is going to change much just because of how he is," Woodson said. "We'll miss him on the field. He's an important part of our defense so not to have that guy and have to essentially find somebody to replace him, that's always tough in whatever position it is to replace one of your main guys."
"It'll be a challenge, not having him out there on the field, not having the leader of the team," defensive end Khalil Mack said. "Having his leadership is really more important than anything."
"Not just the d-line he has an impact on, but the whole team with his leadership," defensive lineman C.J. Wilson added. "He's a guy who's been around a long time, been to a couple of Super Bowls, made a lot of plays in the NFL, for him to go down is a big impact to your team."
Although Wilson says Tuck's loss will impact the defensive line and the defense as a whole, he says his group has some capable players who can step in and contribute.
"We'll find a way, he was doing a lot giving it up for other guys, just being a team player like he always is," Wilson said. "I think we have a very versatile group, hard working. One goes down, that's the name of the game, the next man is ready to go."
After zero sacks the first two weeks, the defense has chalked up 10 in the last three games. Wilson says he believes the defensive front will re-double their efforts and get after the quarterback even more ferociously moving forward.
"We just compete every week, every day. We've got a great d-line, we're going to start getting to the quarterback a lot more," Wilson added.
Rookie defensive end Mario Edwards Jr will step into the void and get the starting nod in Tuck's absence. He has really come on lately. Wilson and defensive end Benson Mayowa could also see increased playing time. Hopefully defensive lineman Denico Autry will be back in action soon after missing time due to a concussion.
Tuck has 66.5 career sacks. Hopefully we'll see plenty more in Silver and Black.