When will the New York Giants see this version of Jason Pierre-Paul again?
Here is a scarier question, and one no one really wants to think about. Does that Jason Pierre-Paul still exist post-back surgery?
Pierre-Paul, who missed the entire preseason following back surgery, has one sack and just 12 tackles through four games. At that pace he would finish with four sacks and 48 tackles. He had 16.5 sacks and 86 tackles in an All-Pro 2011 season and 6.5 sacks and 66 tackles in what was thought to be a down year last season.
Watch Pierre-Paul on film and you clearly see the biggest issue. He is slow getting off the ball, nothing like the explosive, unblockable, sometimes in the backfield before you blink player he has been at his best.
Pierre-Paul, in his fourth season afterbeing the Giants' first-round pick in 2010, knows it.
"I’m pretty slow off the ball as I watch on film. I’ve got to correct that," he said this week. "I don’t think it’s the back. I’ve got to get back to that mentality of getting off the ball, getting up off my stance quicker."
Pierre-Paul has dealt with double and triple-teams since his breakout 2011 season. Last week against the Kansas City Chiefs, however, left tackle Branden Albert was left on an island with Pierre-Paul for most of the game and held him to one tackle in 61 snaps.
Defensive coordinator Perry Fewell said Thursday that expectations for Pierre-Paul have been too high.
"I think everybody's expectation level was so high that he would come back and be Superman. I'll use that term," Fewell said. "But obviously a player has to work himself back into shape. He has to work himself back into a football mentality and he has to keep working at his craft in order for his skills to rise to the top level."
The 24-year-old Pierre-Paul is optimistic that in time he will return to form.
"I'm trying to get better every day. I wish I didn't have surgery, but I had to do it. I'm getting better every day," Pierre-Paul said. "Everybody says I'm improving and that' the thing. My conditioning is on point, so it's just getting back to that football mode."
Perhaps Fewell is right that the expectations were too high. Maybe, though, the expectations have been high because the need is so great. The Giants are 0-4 and have been unable to pick up the slack as Pierre-Paul plays his way back into "football mode," shown by their league-worst four sacks.
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