By Jason Keidel
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The Jason Pierre-Paul topic has so many dimensions that it’s tough to pick a particular angle.
Just the fact that pictures of his hand come with a caveat — “Warning, images may be disturbing and unsuitable for children” — makes any chat of an NFL return feel peripheral.
But there’s talk from Tom Coughlin that the Giants’ stalwart pass rusher could return to action this weekend when they play the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
That’s what happens when you surrender seven — yes, seven — touchdown passes from the New Orleans Saints. Drew Brees short-circuited the scoreboard while ringing up over 46 fantasy points, allegedly the best FF performance from a QB in history.
James Winston is no Brees. The top draft pick out of Florida State has flashed some fine moments, yet he also threw a pick-six with his first NFL pass. Still, the Giants are ranked dead last (32nd) in defense, yielding about 427 yards per game, including over 300 yards passing. They lead the league in tackles (626), which means their defense is on the field way too long. Not surprisingly, the G-Men are also last in sacks, with nine, and are the only team without at least 10 as a team.
Hence the need for JPP, who is the only bona fide baller on the defensive line. Unlike their bunkmates at MetLife, the Giants don’t have Muhammad Wilkerson, Leonard Williams and Sheldon Richardson holding the fort until you return.
Unlike Gang Green, which had surrendered the fewest points in the NFL entering the game in Oakland, Big Blue has surrendered the third-most points in the NFC (208), including those nauseating 52 points to the Saints. Eli Manning became the first QB in NFL history to toss six TD passes and 0 INT and lose. Too polished to blame the defense, Manning spoke in the predictable platitudes about winning and losing as a team while talking to WFAN host Mike Francesa on Monday.
After a combined 63 tackles and 8.5 sacks in 2012 and 2013, JPP bounced back in 2014 with 53 tackles and 12.5 sacks. But, at the risk of being too baleful or graphic, that was when he had two hands. If you have the stomach to stare at the state of his right hand today, you’ll see someone who’s a newfound southpaw.
You can understand JPP’s desire to hit the field ASAP. After blowing a $60 million contract offer and his $14.8 million franchise tender, he’s now working on a conga line of incentives. If he gets 10 sacks the rest of the season — a miracle in itself — he would collect $8.7 million.
Last week he practiced with the team for the first time since December. How’s the rest of his body? How’s his endurance? How does he lift weights? How does he plan to use his myriad moves on the field without the use of a few digits? What if he overcompensates this week and pulls a hamstring or twists a knee? If there ever were a billboard for patience, it’s this patient.
Pass rushers require use of all their limbs. JPP can’t grab a QB jersey and toss a tackle to the side. At least not using conventional means. And if you see the grotesque damage he did on July 4, you’re shocked that he’s even on the cusp of playing for pay this season, much less this week.
As WFAN host Boomer Esiason said on Tuesday morning, no one would have guessed that JPP would suit up before Victor Cruz. Showtime ran a heartwarming documentary on Cruz’s live, from the perils of Paterson, N.J. to making his hometown team 15 minutes away. It would be quite a tender moment to see Cruz and JPP return to the team this season, if they can return to form.
But JPP’s form has forever changed, as has his salary, potential and prospects for Big Blue. Don’t rush your best rusher and ask him to give you a hand when his is still healing.
Follow Jason on Twitter @JasonKeidel.