Jason Pierre-Paul will be held out of this weekend's preseason contest against the Chicago Bears because of back spasms, according to ESPN New York. The 23-year-old defensive end has had back issues in the past, and they could seriously impact the New York Giants' bid to repeat as Super Bowl champions.
Pierre-Paul was a revelation in 2011. He exploded to rack up 86 tackles, 16.5 sacks and two forced fumbles. He was a huge part of a defensive front that led the way as the Giants captured Super Bowl XLVI. The South Florida product was a Pro Bowler and a first-team All-Pro in his second season and showed why the Giants took him with the 15th pick in the 2010 NFL Draft.
His back issues are a serious blow to a Giants team that has been decimated with injuries along the defensive front. Defensive tackles Shaun Rogers (blood clot), Marvin Austin (back) and Chris Canty (knee) are all currently out. Linval Joseph and Rocky Bernard are in place to man the middle right now, but that won't be enough once the regular season rolls around.
With Pierre-Paul out that leaves Justin Tuck and Osi Umenyiora in place to man the defensive end rotation essentially by themselves. That's not tenable long-term. The Giants need Pierre-Paul available and healthy, and dealing with back spasms is not a good way to kick off the season.
Back issues have flared before for Pierre-Paul, and spasms rarely just disappear, which means he could be dealing with back problems for quite some time.
But the Giants can't afford to let him sit out until the issues resolve themselves, because the pressure Pierre-Paul provides is a huge part of their defense. In fact, his dominance over the final four games last season (34 tackles, six sacks) was probably the single most important factor in the team even reaching the playoffs.
Without Pierre-Paul, Tuck and Umenyiora must step up their games to a whole other level.