According to Ebenezer Samuel of the New York Daily News, New York Giants defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul has urged the Oakland Raiders to "bring their 'A' game" when the two teams meet on Sunday afternoon.
A newfound confidence flowed forth from New York's one-time All-Pro pass-rusher on Wednesday.
For the first time since his offseason back surgery, Pierre-Paul stated with conviction that he will once again be "all over that field" against the Raiders.
Pierre-Paul's tune has changed since early August, when he appeared to disagree with general manager Jerry Reese's indication that the defensive star would be ready to go for the start of the season.
At that point, Pierre-Paul claimed the decision to play was all his and that he wasn't in any hurry to face the double- and triple-teams that were sure to be sent his way. However, a month later, he relented and told Samuel that his activation was "up to the coach and training staff."
As recently as late last month, Pierre-Paul was still expressing significant doubts. Three days before the Giants' 15-7 victory over the Philadelphia Eagles, he told Ralph Vacchiano of the NY Daily News that it would take "the whole offseason" to return to what he believes is his true form.
Pierre-Paul's discouragement was founded.
Through eight games this season, he has just one sack. That sack—which occurred in Week 1 against Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo—is the only one Pierre-Paul has to his name in the past 15 games, dating back to the 2012 season.
Once an opposing quarterback's worst nightmare, the Giants' top pass-rusher has been blanked by blockers for the better part of a year.
While New York's pass rush has continued to struggle as a whole, the run defense has improved this season. Pierre-Paul has been effective in bottling up opposing running backs, but he isn't even on pace to eclipse half of his otherworldly 86-tackle total from 2011.
In just about all aspects of his game, Pierre-Paul has been a shell of his former self.
|Jason Pierre-Paul: The Drop-off in Production|
|Time Period||Sacks||Tackles||Pass Deflections|
|Start of 2011 - Week 9, 2012||23||124||12|
|Week 10, 2012 - Week 8, 2013||1||47||3|
Still, the Raiders would be wise to heed Pierre-Paul's warning.
Since he was activated from the physically unable to perform list list in late August, it has been a crash course for Pierre-Paul, who has struggled to re-acclimate his body to professional football's daily grind.
The Giants have expected the uber-athletic defensive end to make an impact despite claims that he's less than 100 percent healthy. However, Pierre-Paul has faithfully toiled through each of the last eight games.
Pierre-Paul finally caught a break last week, and it came in the form of a bye.
The additional week of rest has him singing a different song, one we haven't heard since before his back surgery. Although he told Jordan Raanan of NJ.com that he's only "90 percent" healthy, Pierre-Paul is ready to unleash all but that final 10 percent on the Raiders this Sunday.
With Oakland's dual-threat quarterback, Terrelle Pryor, coming to town, there is no better time for New York's best defensive player to begin exuding such confidence.
Not only does Pryor lead his team in passing yardage (1,437), he also leads the Raiders in rushing yardage (485). He averages slightly more yardage per rushing attempt (7.7) than passing attempt (7.3) and isn't afraid to lean on his mobility and athleticism to extend plays.
It may resemble a wild hog chase, but Pryor will at least hold the ball long enough to allow Pierre-Paul and the rest of his sack-starved friends a chance to wrangle him to the dirt.
Several other quarterbacks that the Giants have faced in 2013—such as Romo, Peyton Manning and Alex Smith—have allowed New York no such luxury. Instead, they have relied upon quick throws to combat Big Blue's once-vaunted rush. This approach was documented by the team and shared with The Star-Ledger earlier this year.
With the only man standing between a well-rested Pierre-Paul and his prize being 31-year-old left tackle Khalif Barnes, it's no wonder he's been publicly licking his chops.
We will see if Pierre-Paul extends his promise beyond the Raiders game, but this one should be fun to watch.