How JPP’s return has boosted Giants’ pass rush
There were few more bizarre stories this offseason in the NFL than the news that Jason Pierre-Paul’s career was in jeopardy because of a fireworks accident. Losing fingers undoubtedly makes playing the game more difficult, especially for a defensive end, where hand use in so important. To make matters worse, JPP was in the middle of a contract dispute as he sought a long-term deal rather than the franchise tag he was offered. Pierre-Paul is back on the field now, though, and his performances have given the Giants’ defense a much needed boost.
Despite playing only 317 snaps, JPP has the 11th best pass rushing grade amongst 4-3 defensive ends. He looks determined to prove that his unfortunate accident is far from major hinderance. Since he returned in Week 9, JPP has a +12.4 pass rushing grade due to five hits and 24 hurries. He also has a pair of batted passes. Since he returned, that +12.4 pass rush grade is third in the NFL at his position behind only Jerry Hughes and Olivier Vernon. Pierre’Paul’s 29 combined pressures in the past five games also place him third behind that duo, and he’s amassed those numbers from just 197 snaps. If anything, JPP has elevated his game as a pass rusher compared with a year ago, even if the big plays aren’t there. He had only 37 combined pressures in 2014 from 324 snaps, and a worse pass rush productivity as a result. Partnering JPP with Robert Ayers gives the Giants a pair of bookend pass rushers.
The story with JPP is not entirely positive, however. His run defense has suffered, likely as a result of the injury. Pierre-Paul has a negative grade against the run (-0.8) after finishing third in that category in 2014 (+14.3). Tackling has, unsurprisingly, proven difficult, as everyone witnessed on MNF when he was unable to bring Lamar Miller down, resulting in a long touchdown run. So far, JPP has already missed three tackles, and that’s from just 14 attempts. He’s also making fewer tackles around the line of scrimmage, illustrated by the fact that his stop rate has fallen from 8.4 percent to 7 percent. Early signs suggest Pierre-Paul might not be the complete player he once was, but can still disrupt quarterbacks in the pocket.
Overall, it’s been a pretty promising return to action for JPP, with three game grades above +1.0 in his five outings. The Giants have a decision to make in the offseason regarding the clearly talented player. Pass rushers don’t grow on trees, and Pierre-Paul’s return has given New York a much-needed lift as they scrap desperately to take the NFC East.