Jason Pierre-Paul's Case for Defensive Player of the Year

Hayden BirdCorrespondent IDecember 31, 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

Artie Lange (yes that Artie Lange) has a joke about ending every sentence with “…and Taylor." It's a verbatim reference to the way that former Giants announcer Bob Sheppard would seemingly end every sentence during Lawrence Taylor’s hyperactive career.

As Lange explains it, LT was so good that he was literally in on every tackle, so Sheppard would end every play by announcing that the tackle had been made by player X, player Y “…and Taylor.”

It’s a funny bit to hear Lange tell it, but for anyone watching the 2011 Giants, it might have a little added resonance.

With 15.5 sacks and 81 total tackles, you might be able to attach the same line to second-year defensive-end Jason Pierre Paul. His uncanny ability to buzz around every play shows up on television as well as in the box score.

The simple explanation for this is the former first-round pick is in the camera’s frame quite a bit. And he’s relishing every second that the spotlight is on him.


A “Victim” of Circumstance

Pierre-Paul entered this season as a large unknown. He had shown tremendous potential in his rookie season (and before that too). Yet he was a personification of inexperience, having only begun his football career as an upperclassman in high school.

“He kind of reminds me of a young puppy” Tollefson told me during training camp in August. “You always see puppies that have big feet, big paws and he’s just filling in. It’s exciting.”

The Osi Umenyiora contract dispute and subsequent injury handed Pierre-Paul his chance to be a starter. In the very first preseason game, he sacked Cam Newton twice.

(Due to it’s being a preseason game, it was a performance that didn’t warrant too much attention. Yet in retrospect, two sacks against Cam Newton seems much more impressive.)

He had two more sacks in the season opener against Washington, allaying fears that the Giants pass rush would struggle without Umenyiora (who had ten forced fumbles in 2010).


Effective on Multiple Planes

The measure of a defensive end by ordinary fans is almost entirely predicated on the number of sacks he makes. That’s the most visible measurement of a defensive end.

Yet as the modern game has shown, fewer and fewer teams are playing in base formations, or traditional assignments within base formations.

Pierre-Paul has been a standard example of defensive innovation, dropping into coverage throughout games (the tackle he made on Felix Jones late in the Week 14 game in Dallas was a classic example).

At 81 total tackles, he has more than any other defensive player with 10 or more sacks. A lot more. Only Terrell Suggs and Von Miller come within 20 tackles of Pierre-Paul, and they both play in a 3-4 (meaning they roam the field more often).

And with six passes defended, he’s showing himself competent in coverage. Throw in the blocked kick against Dallas and that sounds like a decent candidacy for Defensive Player of the Year.