Grading Jason Pierre-Paul’s return

Sam Monson evaluates the performance of Giants defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul in his first game back from injury.

| 12 months ago
(AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack)

(AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack)

Grading Jason Pierre-Paul’s return

Sunday’s win over the Buccaneers marked the first appearance by Jason Pierre-Paul for the New York Giants since a July accident with fireworks caused severe damage to his right hand and left him in career limbo for a time.

Pierre-Paul may never have become the pass-rushing force the Giants wanted from him, but prior to this injury he was one of the league’s best run defenders at the position and a player who could generate consistent pressure before his injury.

Working primarily on the right side of the Giants line, JPP notched two hits and four hurries, even if he was kept from recording a sack on his return. He led the team in total pressures, doubling the next-best total (from Robert Ayers), and notching more than a third of the total the Giants produced as a team. We have seen New York struggle to generate pressure in his absence, and his return only served to highlight the problems they have had.

Outside of JPP there was very little in the way of pressure, and as a team they failed entirely to sack Jameis Winston.

Working against a rookie in the form of Tampa Bay LT Donovan Smith will definitely have aided Pierre-Paul’s performance. This actually represents one of Smith’s better games in a rookie season that has been punctuated by awful play at times. Smith has yet to have a perfect game in pass protection and has had four games with three or more total pressures given up.

As an opponent to ease your way back against, Smith is about as good as Pierre-Paul could have hoped for, and it’s a positive sign that JPP was able to generate a pretty consistent amount of pressure against him. What is perhaps more interesting is that he was not the same force he usually is against the run, where his -0.3 grade represents a game of little impact in that regard.

It’s far too small a sample size to draw accurate conclusions, in that despite an excellent season grade against the run a year ago that season featured nine games of average or poor performances against the run, but it is probably worth noting that against a rookie that has struggled this season he was unable to be much of a force as a run defender.

With injuries biting deep for the Giants, they are in need of JPP’s return now more than ever. Given his long layoff and the extent of the injuries to his hand, this return performance can only be seen as a positive debut. How closely to his old self he can get over the coming weeks will be an interesting thing to watch, but at the very least we have already seen that he provides an immediate boost and upgrade to a Giants front that was in desperate need of it already, and only became more so with the injury to Johnathan Hankins inside.

| Senior Analyst

Sam is a Senior Analyst at Pro Football Focus, as well as a contributor to ESPN.

  • Brian

    I joked…but it seems JPP with 8.5 fingers, and rusty, actually IS our best pass rusher.

    Sad days for the big blue wrecking crew….

  • Kent Karlson

    How can losing any defensive line player be meaningful considering the Giant defense can’t stop the run and can’t pressure the QB?