By Ernie Palladino
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Jason Pierre-Paul wasn’t right most of last season. Then he had back surgery, and he hasn’t been right most of 2013.
So is it any wonder that after a couple of decent practices this week, JPP came out with a proclamation that the old pass-rush terror will be ready to unleash fury Sunday on Oakland?
Everything remains to be seen, of course. This grand unveiling Pierre-Paul has planned could turn out to be a big fizzle yet. That’s how back issues can be. They come, they go, they hinder. But let’s take the optimistic route because, hey, the 2-6 Giants need all the good vibes that come their way.
Let’s say JPP really does return to his old, dominant self. It will certainly stand as a beacon of hope for this still-struggling team. And no, don’t be fooled by the two straight wins. They beat a quarterback who had practiced with Minnesota for all of four days prior, and then unloaded the pass rush on a turnover-prone Michael Vick in their 15-7 win before the bye.
The four sacks was impressive, but Pierre-Paul never did get in on the party. He has just one this year.
But he’s feeling good for really the first time since his back surgery, and he has pronounced himself ready and raring to go.
He said he feels “great” and “awesome.”
He said, “Come this Sunday, I’m rushing the passer, stopping the run. I’m gonna be all over that field. They better bring their ‘A’ game, that’s what I can tell you.”
For all the convenience of having 3-5 Oakland as an opponent this week, a resurgence from Pierre-Paul would be a welcome sight in any case. They’ll be facing more difficult teams than the Raiders down the road, so even a good showing against a stammering squad with just five points more than the 141 the Giants have compiled this year would brighten everybody’s hopes in that locker room.
The Giants have been waiting a long time for JPP to feel good and, in turn, make his teammates feel good about themselves. The last game certainly helped in that last factor, as Antrel Rolle, Terrell Thomas, Mathias Kiwanuka, and Linval Joseph got in on the action. And Justin Tuck has popped his head up here and there.
But to have the taller, younger JPP return to his former freakishness, that would be a triumph of not only perseverance, but timing.
The Giants need him now more than ever. And they need him to dominate again, as he did before his lower back betrayed him.
They need him to regain the respect that forced the league to devote yet another blocker to his side.
“For the past three years, I’ve been rushing the passer, you see fear in the quarterback’s eyes,” Pierre-Paul said. “You see fear in the tackle’s eyes. They respect me. They know when they hit the field, they have a problem.
“And this week, they’re gonna have a problem.”
That’s providing JPP and the rest of the gang can catch up with Terrelle Pryor. He’s yet another running quarterback. While his throwing numbers don’t stack up, he leads all quarterbacks with 485 rushing yards on 63 carries, including a 93-yard touchdown run on the first play of the Raiders’ Week 8 matchup with the Steelers.
It’s not like the rookie is going to hang around in the pocket and wait endlessly for Pierre-Paul to come calling.
So Pierre-Paul’s job is clear. Contain first. Then drop him.
Tall order for a guy still not fully recovered from back surgery.
Defensive coordinator Perry Fewell has been waiting patiently for that. It’s understandable. The Giants haven’t consistently been the Giants as far as pass rush for more than a year.
To get Pierre-Paul going, well, that would be a win.
“I’m ready for him to have a breakout game,” Fewell said. “I think we’re all anticipating and have been waiting for him to have a breakout game. He’s got a pep in his step and we’re looking for good things.”
Pierre-Paul said he’s ready.
Now he needs to provide the evidence on Sunday.
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