New York Giants rookie first-round defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul notched another two sacks in Sunday’s victory over the Washington Redskins, further validating the strong faith the Giants front office had when they drafted him.
Along with the two sacks Pierre-Paul collected against the Jaguars in Week 12, he now has four on the season. For a player who once had fans and pundits questioning when his sacks would come, he has sure started to pour it on as of late.
And for a player as raw as Pierre-Paul was early in the season, his game has really started to evolve his abilities as a pass-rusher. His first sack came on a beautifully quick inside move and his second came when he beat left tackle Trent Williams to the edge and used his incredibly long arms to bring quarterback Donavon McNabb down.
And the light coming on now for Pierre-Paul couldn’t have come at a better time for the Giants who are currently fighting for their playoff lives in an incredibly crowded NFC Playoff race.
Offensive coordinators were scared enough of a Giants team that features Justin Tuck and Osi Umenyiora coming off the edges, but now with Pierre-Paul becoming a factor those same offensive coordinators are now terrified.
And it wasn’t that Pierre-Paul was worthless for the Giants leading up to the last two games, he is second on the team in special teams tackles and has quickly turned into one of the better special teamers in the NFL.
But special teams is not why the Giants drafted Pierre-Paul, the Giants drafted him so he could hunt quarterbacks. Now while some fans and pundits were surprised when the Giants drafted Pierre-Paul, due to the presence of Mathias Kiwanuka, Osi Umenyiora and Justin Tuck, they shouldn’t have been.
The Giants view pass-rushers as the thoroughbreds of NFL players, and they want a stable of them. This stable also gave the Giants and Pierre-Paul the luxury of time; they didn’t have to rush him onto the field before he was ready. The Giants were able to spoon-feed him, not just throw him to the wolves and put him in a position to fail.
And with four sacks in the last two games, a fumble recovery, constant quarterback pressure and excellent play against the run that patience has paid off in a big way, and sooner than many, even within the Giants organization, thought was possible. And this is only the tip of the iceberg of Pierre-Paul’s talent.
Now with his recent string of excellent play perhaps the draft pundits, fans and analysts who based the Giants for selecting Pierre-Paul in the first place will finally start to come around.
Few first-round draft picks from last year’s draft elicited so many divergent opinions as Pierre-Paul. Drafted 15th overall, some scouts and pundits were convinced Pierre-Paul was a stud in the making, and others thought he would be a bust of gargantuan proportions.
This is because Pierre-Paul was raw, in both body and mind. He lacked athletic training, and he lacked football experience.
In fact, according to an analysis run by Football Outsiders, Pierre-Paul was projected to have four sacks, in five years. Pierre-Paul has four sacks already this season.
Now I am not criticizing Football Outsiders, they are a great publication and Web site that can be a wonderful tool for the football fanatic. You can read the article here, it is very informative and interesting, worth a look.
Pierre-Paul did not start playing football until very late in his high school career, and in three years at college he was at three different schools, finishing his career at South Florida.
Everyone remembers the video of Pierre-Paul doing around 15 consecutive back flips on YouTube, but that video had a lot of people wondering what that had to do with football, and how that kind of athleticism would translate to football.
Pierre-Paul’s combine performance did little to quell those questions.
Pierre-Paul is an unusual athlete, he is very fast for his size but his short shuttle and vertical jump at last year’s combine were underwhelming. On film at South Florida it also looked like he had times turning the corner and bending his knees when attacking the edge.
But at the same time Pierre-Paul has Spider-Man long arms, quick feet, fantastic burst off the line and great size and strength.
Also when evaluating how raw Pierre-Paul was coming into the league it must be noted that never in Pierre-Paul’s football career had he participated in an organized offseason. Next year will be Pierre-Paul’s first time he has ever been with a football team more than one year.
So while he is an athletic freak, his body has never had the kind of athletic training a lot of other NFL prospects who have been playing organized football and training all there lives.
So while Pierre-Paul’s numbers were disappointing at the combine, the idea that they represented the best numbers for those drills that Pierre-Paul would ever be capable of was laughable.
The longer Pierre-Paul spent in a professional football environment with regimented training and chefs who cook you special diets not only would he get the knowledge and football experience he lacked, but his already incredible body would continue to grow, develop and get stronger.
The Giants knew this, and were counting on his development in both body and mind to eventually validate their decision to draft him so highly. Perhaps they didn’t expect the light to go on for Pierre-Paul so soon, but I don’t think anyone is complaining.