The Giants pass rush has been relatively quiet through three games this season. After a 2011 season in which they ravaged opposing quarterbacks week in and week out, the unit appears to be in a bit of a slump. The team’s top three defensive ends have only collected a total of 2.5 sacks, so far.
Week 4, however, could be the week in which the unit breaks out. They will be facing a hated rival in the Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday night in front of a nationally televised audience. The excitement surrounding this game promises to be the catalyst for the Giants’ defensive ends to get a jump-start on the 2012 season.
Third-year defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul will spearhead the Giants’ pass rush on Sunday. The athletic specimen has only logged a sack and a half, so far, this season, which is a far cry from the 30 sacks that teammate Mathias Kiwanuka projected he would have by the year’s end, but he provides a unique ability to infiltrate the backfield and get after the quarterback.
Pierre-Paul may record his first multi-sack performance of 2012 on Sunday night, as he’s shown he certainly has the confidence to pull off such a feat. He told Johnette Howard of ESPN New York that Eagles’ quarterback Michael Vick better be on the lookout for New York’s pass rush:
As a quarterback that runs a lot, you know, you should expect for you to get hit even more than when you're [a quarterback] standing in the pocket to pass. Even when you're standing in the pocket and pass, you're gonna get hit. We're coming. We're going to hit you, regardless. Whether you're throwing the ball or you're running the ball, we're going to hit you. And if you throw the ball and release it -- as long as we get there before you release it, we can hit him. The ref is the only one that can tell us no.
Adding fuel to Pierre-Paul’s fire is the fact that the Eagles’ starting left tackle King Dunlop has been declared out for the game due to a hamstring issue. Dunlap was already filling in for All-Pro Jason Peters, who ruptured (and then re-ruptured) his Achilles in the offseason.
With Dunlap out, ex-Buffalo Bill Demetress Bell will step into the starting fold. According to Howard’s article, Pierre-Paul laughed at the idea of Bell, a third-stringer, being able to block him. Chances are that the Eagles will send some added reinforcement Pierre-Paul’s way.
The superstar defensive end has already seen a lot of double-teams, so far, this year, so if the Eagles decide to keep a tight end in to aid in pass protection, it would not be very surprising.
But, that shouldn’t stop his teammate Osi Umenyiora from grinning. Umenyiora has been getting after the quarterback for the Giants since the Jim Fassel era, and he shows few signs of slowing down. Last year, in spite of injuries and a reserve role that he assumed when healthy, Umenyiora finished the regular season with 9.0 sacks (nine games).
Sure, the 30-year-old defensive end may have only one sack through three games this season, but all the pieces appear to be in place for him to break out in Week 4.
Earlier this week, according to Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN, Eagles’ running back LeSean McCoy rehashed the feud he had with Umenyiora dating back to 2010, calling Umenyiora a “ballerina” in a Giants uniform. Normally, this would prompt a response out of Umenyiora, who has never been afraid to open his mouth in the past.
But for some reason, Umenyiora has kept quiet on the issue, presumably waiting for his opportunity to let his play on the field do the talking.
Umenyiora has had incredible games against Philadelphia in the past, including a six-sack performance in 2007 when Donovan McNabb was still the Eagles’ signal-caller. But, the last three times these two teams have met, Umenyiora has gone sackless, which is probably why McCoy, a third-year back, has little reverence for No. 72 in blue.
All the motivating factors are in place for Umenyiora to have a big game; he just needs to capitalize on them. Now in his 10th, and possibly final, season with the team, Umenyiora has the opportunity to become legendary in the storied Giants-Eagles rivalry by adding to the 11.5 sacks he already has against Philadelphia in his career.
And there’s no way Justin Tuck will allow himself to get lost in the mix. As the team’s defensive captain, Tuck is a very competitive leader who doesn’t like to be overshadowed by his teammates. If Pierre-Paul and Umenyiora get off to a quick start against Philadelphia, expect to see Tuck following close behind, as it seems like he plays best when the other two are hot.
In last year’s Week 3 matchup with the Eagles, New York had previously unknown wide receiver Victor Cruz break out for 110 yards and two touchdowns on three catches. He then went on to finish third in the league in receiving yards.
This year’s early-season matchup with Philadelphia will feature a similar breakout performance from the Giants’ talented defensive ends on their way to an equally dominant regular season.