Is Jason Pierre-Paul the NFL 2011 Defensive Player of the Year?

Tom LianosContributor IIIDecember 30, 2011

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - DECEMBER 24:  Mark Sanchez #6 of the New York Jets is sacked by Jason Pierre-Paul #90 of the New York Giants during the second quarter during a game at MetLife Stadium on December 24, 2011 in East Rutherford. New Jersey. (Photo by Rich Schultz /Getty Images)
Rich Schultz/Getty Images

The team metrics for the New York Giants are all terrible:

  • 28th in points allowed per game (25.7)
  • 28th in total yardage allowed per game (381.5)
  • 27th in passing yards allowed per game (255.4)
  • 23rd in rushing yards allowed per game (126.1)

How can a team that is statistically one of the worst in the league feature the league's most valuable defensive player?

The one thing that the Giants can do on defense is bring pressure.  The pressure comes almost exclusively from the Giants' front four led by Jason Pierre-Paul. 

  • fourth in takeaways (29, 19 INTs and 10 Fumbles recovered out of 15 forced)
  • fifth in sacks (42)
  • seventh in takeaway differential (+5)

The ability to win the turnover battle and put pressure on opposing QBs has been the reason why the Giants are in position to win the NFC East in their Week 17 showdown against the Dallas Cowboys

What does Jason Pierre-Paul bring to the table?

  • fourth in the NFL in sacks (15.5)
  • first among defensive line in tackles (81, 61 solo)
  • first among defensive line in passes defensed (6)
  • NFC Defensive Player of the Week in two of the last three weeks (first player to win the award twice in 2011)
  • 2011 Pro Bowl (as reserve, even though his name was not on the ballot)

The stats alone don't tell the full story.  He has been the only Giant on the defensive side of the ball to play with any level of consistency this year.  Justin Tuck and Osi Umenyiora are more decorated, but both have been largely ineffective this year due to injury.  It's mostly been a JPP show.

Jason Pierre-Paul is an athletic freak much in the mold of Javon Kearse.  Only 22-years-old and playing football competitively for only 5 years, he is wrecking havoc in the NFL with just his raw talent. 

Pierre-Paul has improved each week and had a real coming out party in the last three weeks with signature defensive plays against the Dallas Cowboys and the New York Jets.  The league's offensive coordinators are now aware of Jason Pierre-Paul and need to game plan for him. 

Can Pierre-Paul win Defensive Player of the Year?  Let's look at his competition:

  • NYJ CB Revis—Revis has not been as good in 2011 as he was the last two years 
  • MIN DE Allen—The NFL sack leader whose productive season was lost on a last place team
  • DAL LB Ware—Second in the NFL in sacks, but his production has fallen as the season has progressed.  The fact that Dallas has lost three games while leading by double digits in the fourth quarter may have doomed his chances
  • SF DE Smith—Ranked fifth in sacks and a member of the top-ranked defense (points per game).  His candidacy is hurt by the fact that he's not the best defensive player on his team 
  • KC LB Hali—All around performance hurt by his relative obscurity
  • BAL LB Suggs—Many memorable performances.  Spent lots of time in the opponent's backfield with both sacks (13) and tackles for losses.  Baltimore's defensive pedigree helps

I think that the race is between Suggs, Pierre-Paul and Ware with the results of Week 17's games likely to determine the winner:

  • If Baltimore finishes with the No. 1 seed in the AFC, it is likely to give Suggs the advantage in voters' minds
  • The winner of the Cowboys/Giants game should see their defensive candidate move up in the discussion.  I do see Pierre-Paul being more of a factor with the return of a healthy Tuck and Umenyiora.  He'll actually have help this game 

It is probably too early in his career for JPP to win the award, but the race remains open.  Regardless, we are looking at a future winner of the award, barring injury.