Credit: Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports
Sports on Earth writer Michael Tanier assembled an NFL starting lineup constituted entirely of critical cogs — players that he feels hold a substantial measure of their team’s success, or lack thereof, in the quality of their on-field performance. New York Giants’ defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul was one of two defensive ends named to the “All-Hinge” squad.
Coming off back surgery in the summer of 2013, JPP was not a recognizable threat off the edge last season prior to being shutdown with a shoulder injury. He recorded only two sacks in 11 active weeks, consistently falling short of opposing quarterbacks despite 23 pressures. His run defense was sturdy, concluding the year as the #12 rated 4-3 DE against the run by Pro Football Focus (9.6). But as Tanier points out, the Giants need JPP to be more than an edge setter in the ground game:
"All of the familiar faces are gone from the Giants’ defensive line. All that is left is JPP, JPP’s expectations, JPP’s injuries and JPP’s disappointments, which makes for a troubling front four. OK, that’s not quite true: Damontre Moore and Johnathan Hankins have upside, Cullen Jenkins is disruptive in spurts and Mathias Kiwanuka is still in the Kennedy rocker telling “how our front four single-handedly beat the undefeated Patriots” stories none of the youngsters believe. Without something close to the 2011 version of JPP, the Giants will have more trouble rushing the passer than the Cowboys."
The question remains: does JPP have dominance left in him at the (supposedly) ripe age of 25? His impact, explosive plays depreciated dramatically for the second consecutive campaign in 2013. In fact, his pick-six against Scott Tolzien and the Packers was his one authentic shining moment.
Athleticism and power are his calling cards. He won’t be winning any technique beauty contests, and therefore needs to be healthy, strong and fully operational to get after the quarterback.
The Giants don’t necessarily need the 16.5-sack JPP of 2011 (although they’ll certainly welcome him back). What they require is a tone setter on the defensive front, a fear inspiring presence to soften the load on the inexperienced talents. He’s trimmed down to a svelte 270 lbs. in the offseason and says he’s going to turn back the clocks and play like he’s 21 again. An esteemed member of the 2015 free agent class, JPP would be well advised to do exactly that should he expect to land a hefty payday — from the Giants or anyone else.