New York Giants defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul (my photo of him, above, at camp on Monday) is so dynamic a game-changing pass rusher— so scary good — that he’s reminding NFL observers of a Giants’ Hall of Fame pass rusher of yesteryear. One Lawrence Taylor.
As Taylor was, Pierre-Paul is freakishly super-athletic — at times seemingly unblockable.
Defensive linemen are considerably beefier and faster since Taylor terrorized NFL quarterbacks in the ’80s. At 6-foot-5 and 278 pounds, Pierre-Paul is about two inches taller and 45 pounds heavier than LT in his heyday.
As LT was in comparison to his contemporaries, JPP has long arms, and possesses incredible burst, power and speed for his size.
“He’s a physical force,” head coach Tom Coughlin said.
And fast as hell. JPP ran the 40 at the combine two years ago in 4.7 seconds.
In his second NFL season last year, Pierre-Paul tallied 16 1/2 sacks, when 10 is a solid year for a defensive end. Taylor and Michael Strahan are the only
Giants ever to drop the quarterback that many times in one season.
It gets better.
Pierre-Paul arguably was the lynchpin in the Giants’ dominating front seven late last year, which helped take the team to the Super Bowl championship.
And JPP is only 23 years old, probably as young as dozens of this year’s rookies.
He told reporters the other day at Giants training camp at the State University of New York (Albany) that he is only going to get better — a lot better.
“Trust me, I don’t know it all,” he said. “I’ve still got a lot to learn about the game of football. I’m doing quite a good job of it, but I’ve still got a lot to learn.”
Asked if he’s only, say, 50% of what he can be, Pierre-Paul agreed. So did his defensive coordinator.
“That’s pretty good math by JPP,” Perry Fewell told reporters Monday. “I can remember as JPP and I were going through and talking about the defences, he had a lot of questions. But I was in the meeting room with him yesterday, and he had more answers than questions. Some of the questions (were) very technical.”
So far in the NFL, Pierre-Paul has relied mostly on his rare athleticism. At times, Fewell admitted, he and his coaches just get out of the way and unleash JPP on opposing offensive lines.
“You don’t try to coach him too much, because you don’t want to screw him up. That’s the best thing about coaching him right now, because he understands the game to a certain degree, but he’s just scratching the surface of what he can do … So we try not to over-coach him.”
The son of Haitian immigrants, Pierre-Paul was born in Deerfield Beach, Fla., and refined his craft after high school at College of the Canyons in California, at Fort Scott Community College in Kansas, and at the University of South Florida.
A first-round draft pick two years ago (15th overall), JPP picked up 4 1/2 sacks in his rookie year with the Giants. Last year he was named to the Pro Bowl.
It probably won’t be his last.
“He doesn’t feel like he’s arrived yet,” said veteran Giants DE Usi Umenyiora.
“He works in the practice field, he takes notes in the classroom … He’s going to be a phenomenal player for a long time.”
Fewell is telling JPP he can expect to be a marked man in every game this year.
“Just what the offense is doing to him, how they’re trying to take advantage of him and how he can counteract that,” Fewell said. “And how some of the offensive linemen are trying to set him up in different ways.
“He came in as Jason Pierre-Paul, this defensive end. And now he’s JPP, so people are going to study him a little bit more and pay more attention to him.
They’re going to have something ready for him this year, so he’s going to have to be a lot smarter about how he plays the game.”
Pierre-Paul seems to possess the desperate hunger to improve — a trait that separates most sports superstars.
“I’m just trying to be that 23-year-old kid trying to make the football team, like I don’t even have a spot on the team,” he said
Oh, he’ll have a spot on the team. Likely for years to come.
Giants stopped celebrating when the rings arrived
ALBANY, N.Y. — There comes the time when every championship team must cease celebrating, and start devoting themselves fully to doing it all over again.
For the Super Bowl champion New York Giants, that moment arrived when a heavy, valuable piece of jewelry arrived in the mail.
“I think it was after we got our rings,” defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul said. “After we got them, it was time to get back to work. That was it.”