| 6 years ago||
Jason Pierre-Paul understands the expectations that come with being a first-round pick. He also knows the Giants’ depth chart restricts him from becoming a starting defensive end and receiving the playing time he needs to produce inspiring statistics.
But after going through 10 regular-season games without recording a sack, the 21-year-old rookie heard about it from his teammates.
“Hopefully they’ll get off my back,” Pierre-Paul said with a smile after the Giants’ 24-20 victory against Jacksonville.
That’s because Pierre-Paul lived up to his billing in Sunday’s second half, recording his first two sacks of the season and stripping Jaguars quarterback David Garrard both times. The second and most convincing sack came on Jacksonville’s final drive.
“We knew it was just a matter of time,” defensive lineman Chris Canty said.
When Pierre-Paul returned to the locker room after the game, those veteran defensive linemen congratulated him with a dose of mockery.
“You finally got a sack, huh?” they asked.
Those same teammates have gushed since training camp about the raw tools Pierre-Paul presents. He was drafted based on potential — Pierre-Paul played only four years of organized football before earning a $20-million contract — and the franchise knew it needed to exercise patience.
But his development moved to an accelerated schedule when Mathias Kiwanuka was lost for the season in early October. Pierre-Paul gained a better understanding of the NFL after Week 4, when he realized the schemes changed each week.
Even though Pierre-Paul plays in pass-rushing situations, he often lines up inside, where he cannot simply speed around the edge. He was able to penetrate the Jaguars’ depleted offensive line yesterday and also benefited from playing against a mobile quarterback.
Because Garrard’s holds the ball longer than a less mobile quarterback, Pierre-Paul had more time to chase him.
“I was just playing defense, man,” Pierre-Paul said. “I rushed up the middle and he rolled out. So when he rolled out, I got him.”
Kiwanuka’s injury left the Giants with a void to fill. He led the team in sacks at the time of his injury. Although the defensive tackles are capable pass rushers, the defense thrived during the past five seasons when it had multiple defensive ends to rotate in and rush the passer.
Defensive tackle Barry Cofield made sure to point out that the team had more than three pass rushers when Kiwanuka was healthy, but an emerging Pierre-Paul would add an entirely new dynamic to the defense.
“Once you get the first one, it seems like a waterfall,” Cofield said.
Fellow end Justin Tuck pulled Pierre-Paul aside during the game with a message: “I don’t care what schemes they’re giving you, I don’t care what they’re doing, just play fast.”
Tuck finally saw that from the Giants’ first-round pick Sunday, and hoped that it could serve as a stepping stone for the final month of the season.
“I’ve always said JPP is one of the most athletic big men I’ve ever seen in my life,” Tuck said. “He’s a guy who, once he puts it all together on the defensive line like we ask him to do, he’s going to be a force to be reckoned with.”
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