Sunday night against the Dallas Cowboys, New York Giants superstar defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul managed to play 51 of the team's 79 defensive snaps despite the fact he was only 96 days removed from a surgical procedure to repair a herniated disc in his lower back.
Pierre-Paul didn't play throughout the preseason but still wound up with a sack, three hurries, a deflection and some decent plays on run defense, according to advanced stats accumulated by Pro Football Focus (subscription required).
It was a brave effort, and one that still helped his team and its depleted defense more than it hurt. JPP appeared to get better over the course of the night, too, which was extremely important considering that, early on, it looked like he might do more harm than good.
Here he was on his first live snap since the end of the 2012 regular season, not looking right at all on a third down in the red zone:
The same thing happened here later in the first quarter:
"I wasn't tired, my back didn't hurt at all," he said after the game, per Dan Graziano of ESPN. "I've just got to get into that football shape."
That was apparent, too, especially in the early going. Pierre-Paul was often dominated by young Cowboys left tackle Tyron Smith, who graded out by PFF as a below-average starting tackle last season.
Here, he is getting manhandled by Smith on a third down in the first quarter:
He had his moments with solid penetration. Here was one against Smith where he got in Romo's face:
Are you worried about Jason Pierre-Paul?
What makes this so difficult is that Pierre-Paul cannot just get back to 2012 production levels. He has to find a way to get there and then keep building. Last year's standard isn't enough based on how much his totals dropped and how much that defense struggled.
Another 6.5-sack season won't get the job done, especially with Osi Umenyiora gone, Justin Tuck aging and the rest of that D possessing plenty of holes.
Against Manning and stud left tackle Ryan Clady, he'd better hope so. Because without Pierre-Paul on his game, there's a decent chance the G-Men drop to 0-2 Sunday.