Osi Umenyiora laments failure of pass rush

Jason Pierre-Paul, right, warms up with Osi Umenyiora, Jason Pierre-Paul, right, warms up with Osi Umenyiora, left, before an NFL football game against the New Orleans Saints. (Dec. 9, 2012) Photo Credit: AP

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Maybe the Mayans weren't predicting the end of the world, just the end of the core of the Giants' defensive line. Their calendar might be a little more accurate if that were the case.

Because while the Earth still spins Friday, the players who have been the ferocious face of the Giants' pass rush for the better part of the last eight seasons -- Osi Umenyiora, Justin Tuck and Mathias Kiwanuka -- could be facing their final two games as a group. Especially if they can't return to the form that made them such a driving force to two Super Bowl titles in the last five seasons.

As Umenyiora said blithely on ESPN Radio earlier this week on the lack of sacks being produced this season: "If we can't do it, they're going to bring in people who can."

On Thursday, the others in the trio agreed with that reality.

"Sounds about right," Tuck said.

"That's how you always feel around here, not just around here but in the league," Kiwanuka added. "This is a game where you have to produce results immediately and what you did last year, last week, last month, that doesn't matter . . . This is an industry where we live under constant pressure of making sure we get our job done."

The Giants (8-6) haven't been producing. They have 32 sacks as a team, 16th in a 32-team league. Literally mediocre. And their big pass-rushing ends -- the three veterans plus Jason Pierre-Paul -- have totaled 18.5 of those sacks. They have two sacks among them in the last three games.

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Then, this week, came the latest insult. Ravens coach John Harbaugh was asked if there is still a "fear factor" when facing the pass rushers of the Giants.

"I wouldn't use that word," he said.

Neither, it turns out, would the Giants.

"He shouldn't," Tuck said. "Not at all. Because there's been years here there should be, it should have been feared. But this year we haven't had that year. What have you done for me lately -- that's how the league looks at you -- and lately we haven't done much of anything as far as getting after the quarterback."

Most figure Umenyiora won't be back. He's a free agent after this season and has had contract disagreements with the Giants. But there could be more changes if the production doesn't pick up.

Tuck is due $4.5 million in 2013. He brings a lot of intangibles to the Giants as their defensive captain, but during the last two regular seasons he's had eight sacks and 80 tackles. In 2010, his last Pro Bowl season, he had 11.5 sacks and 76 tackles. And he'll turn 30 this offseason. That's not to say Tuck won't be back next year. But it's not unheard of to part ways with a declining veteran with one year remaining on his contract.

Those are issues for the offseason, and the Giants aren't at that point. Yet. They still have two games to play in the regular season. In their two most recent Super Bowls, it has been the pass rush that led the charge.

It may not be too late for a third. A third and perhaps final.

Defensive coordinator Perry Fewell said he notices some frustration from his marquee group when they don't get sacks, even though they try to convince themselves that sacks aren't as important as other stats such as quarterback hits and pushing passers off their launch pad.

"I do believe this about them, though," Fewell said. "They're a proud unit. I think they will have success in the next couple of weeks. And I think you'll see their numbers go up."

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