New York Giants hope for Jason Pierre-Paul's return to prominence

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Last season, the New York Giants’ pass rush was not the lethal, imposing unit it has become known to be over the last decade-plus. Osi Umenyiora was gone to Atlanta, Mathias Kiwanuka was hot and cold, Justin Tuck had some big games but was mostly mediocre over the course of the entire season and Jason Pierre-Paul was a shell of his former self.

Hampered by lingering back issues and the hardship of getting back into football shape after a microdiscectomy to repair a herniated disk in his lower back, Pierre-Paul recorded just two sacks in 11 games during the 2013 NFL season. This came piggy-backing on a pedestrian 6.5-sack campaign the year before which followed a 16.5 performance in 2011. Or, at least, it appeared pedestrian.

JPP had a down year in 2013. There’s no arguing with that. But to try and conclude that he’s already washed up and downtrodden would be a mistake on your part.

While he was not a highly productive player in the sacks department in 2012, he was still a valuable asset who ranked among the league’s best defensive ends in most categories. The issue was, aside from his back injury, his teammates lined up opposite him (Tuck and Umenyiora) provided little help creating pressure up front. Opposing offenses double teamed JPP and essentially took the ailing pass rusher out of the game.

Pro Football Focus rated JPP very well during the 2012 season, ranking him 46th in their top-100 player rankings:

The danger was always there with how people viewed “JPP”. As good as his 2011 season was the emphasis placed on his sack numbers were always going to come back to bite him. And while it’s true he didn’t have quite the same impact as he did when the Giants won it all, it shouldn’t take away from a tremendously complete season he put forward. Excellent against the run, there’s no shame in the 55 QB disruptions he managed.

 

Best Performance: Week 14 versus New Orleans, +6.0

 

Key Stat: His 30 defensive stops in the run game were the third-most of any 4-3 defensive end.

Now one year removed from surgery, JPP insists he’s healthy.

I’m 110 percent. I’m not worried about anything,” Pierre-Paul said last week as training camp got underway. “My main goal is to start the season off healthy, which I am, get some preseason games in and play some football. I feel like I’ve been out for a year.”

After the season he put up, no one would argue that he wasn’t pretty much out for a year. But the man is back, and with the life of the Giants’ pass rush hinging on his shoulders, he’s finally strong enough again to carry the weight if he must.

All accounts in training camp thus far are that No. 90 looks like the No. 90 Giants fans thought they had following 2011.

Pierre-Paul has much to prove heading into the final year of his rookie contract. Big Blue needs him to return to 2011 form, or at least something close to it. With a talented secondary and promising linebacking corps, the return of JPP could elevate the Giants defense as one of the league’s best and make them contenders in the always-competitive NFC East.


All quotes were acquired firsthand or via team releases, unless otherwise noted. Like what you see? Follow us on Twitter to stay up to date on all things New York Giants!