How Much Should New York Giants Really Expect from Jason Pierre-Paul in 2014?

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How Much Should New York Giants Really Expect from Jason Pierre-Paul in 2014?
Stephen Dunn/Getty Images
A healthy portion of the Giants' fortunes rests on the shoulders of JPP.

When it comes to former All-Pro defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul, the New York Giants are hoping for the best.

But are they prepared for the worst?

Pierre-Paul presents himself as the Giants' pivotal uncertainty.

If the man wearing No. 90 resembles the pass-rushing colossus New York fielded in 2011, the defense will spring back to Super Bowl form.

However, if the former first-round selection (15th overall in 2010) fails to register a double-digit sack total for a third consecutive season, Big Blue will feature a middling defense at best.

So, what should the Giants expect from Pierre-Paul, the 25-year-old Haitian Sensation with a bad back?

First, let's quickly evaluate his healthy production in comparison to his recent production:

JPP: The Drop-Off in Production
GAMES SACKS SACK/GAME
Nov. 28, 2010 - Nov. 4, 2012 31 27.5 0.89
Nov. 11, 2012 - Nov. 24, 2013 18 2.0 0.11

Pro-Football-Reference.com

After recording 4.5 sacks without starting a game during his rookie season, Pierre-Paul went on to claim the starting right end duties in 2011.

As a starter, Pierre-Paul posted the NFL's fourth-highest sack total with 16.5 to his name.

Although Pierre-Paul was a wickedly efficient quarterback-chaser in 2011, his contributions went far beyond the pass rush. No defensive lineman across the league matched his 86 tackles that season and his seven passes defended placed him among the team's starting defensive backs.

Individual plays like his safety and blocked kick versus the Dallas Cowboys in Week 15 were more valuable to the team than a stat sheet could ever convey.

Exciting as it was to watch Pierre-Paul single-handedly mangle opposing offensive game plans, it would have been unrealistic to expect a career full of these performances. There would be aging and injuries, and teams would figure out ways to combat the techniques of the young defensive end still learning how to play the game.

Such is the natural progression of the NFL.

The drop-off in production that occurred during the 2012 season, however, was more drastic than anyone could have imagined.

Jamie Squire/Getty Images

At some point during that season, Pierre-Paul started combatting back pain with epidural injections. His effectiveness dwindled as the season wore on. After collecting 6.5 sacks through the first nine games, JPP was shut out for the remainder of the season.

An early-June back surgery hung like a bad omen over JPP and the 2013 Giants.

A season that was a total wash for the team saw its standout defender post embarrassingly low statistics: only two sacks to go along with a measly 27 tackles.

Pierre-Paul played in only 11 games, ending the season early with a shoulder injury. Just two seasons removed from defensive production that seemed inhuman, Pierre-Paul had hit rock bottom by the end of 2013.

After witnessing the defensive end's drastic downfall, how much can the Giants realistically expect to get from Pierre-Paul in 2014?

Based on the personnel with which they've surrounded him, the organization must be expecting a lot.

Outside of Pierre-Paul, the defensive ends expected to make an impact for the Giants in 2014 are Damontre Moore, Mathias Kiwanuka and Robert Ayers—an unknown, a has-been and a never-was.

Behind the top four ends is a small contingent of undrafted rookies and retreads, none of which appear particularly promising.

As a rookie in 2013, Moore did not register a single sack. Kiwanuka recorded a mildly impressive six sacks, while Ayers reached a new career high with 5.5 in Denver.

This is not a very productive group, making the defensive end unit New York's most fragile.

A lot of weight lies squarely on Pierre-Paul's shoulders, and the Giants did not do much in the offseason to relieve this burden. The offensive line was bolstered. So was the defensive backfield.

The success of the pass rush, however, has been left entirely up to Pierre-Paul and the rag-tag crew currently surrounding him.

Rich Schultz/Getty Images
JPP needs to get back on his feet.

In that regard, a lot is expected of Pierre-Paul. More importantly, though, is it realistic?

Let's dissect some of his recent public comments compared to ones he made in the past.

Most recently, Pierre-Paul told reporters he would "shut critics up." Pierre-Paul admitted that he still feels "a little something" when it comes to the back issue that has troubled him since 2012.

The confidence of JPP's initial statement is reminiscent of the one he made before taking on the Oakland Raiders in Week 10 of last season. Coming off a bye and an extra week of rest, Pierre-Paul boasted to the media that he would be "all over that field" versus the Raiders. 

He did record one of his two 2013 sacks against Terrelle Pryor in that game, but he also injured his shoulder in the first quarter—an event that ultimately ended his season.

Pierre-Paul's second statement is more reminiscent of the uncertainty he displayed before the 2013 season began.

While recovering from back surgery and missing practice time, JPP was peppered with questions regarding his Week 1 availability. Although his response was usually a lukewarm endorsement of his availability, everyone was aware that, even if he did play, the end wouldn't be his usual disruptive self.

Despite only having two sacks in his last 18 games played, Pierre-Paul can't be too hungry, as he's made a habit of eating his words. The Dallas Cowboys had a fabulous time mocking JPP's "blood-spilling" comments after they topped the Giants 24-21 on a last-second field goal in Week 12.

That was the last time anyone saw JPP in uniform on a football field.

He sat out the remainder of the season. The Giants were officially out of the playoff race, and Pierre-Paul's shoulder and back injuries had sapped every last bit of effectiveness from his body.

He would rest the remainder of the season and make a healthy return next year—with the expectations even higher.

Will Jason Pierre-Paul ever rediscover his 2011 form?

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It can be inferred that Pierre-Paul still views himself as one of the NFL's elite defensive linemen, as evidenced by his recent Instagram post (h/t NJ.com) complaining about the D-linemen who were and were not selected for the NFL Network's Top 100 players of 2013.

His production over the past season-and-a-half, however, simply does not warrant his inclusion (h/t NJ.com).

Pierre-Paul's reputation was so inflated by his 2011 performance that it earned him two Pro Bowls—a deserved one that season, and an undeserved one the following season. That reputation, which JPP is desperately clinging to, is no longer reality.

It's time for him to show up on the field again.

The organization, still hopeful, expects massive production. The fanbase, growing tired, expects precious little.

Down and somewhat disillusioned, Pierre-Paul appears somewhere in between.

 

All statistical information courtesy of Pro-Football-Reference.com unless noted otherwise.

Kevin is a New York Giants Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter here.

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