Jason Pierre-Paul and his surgically-repaired back hold the key to the success or failure of the New York Giants defense in 2013. Will he be on the field Week 1 against the Dallas Cowboys or will the Giants have to wait for their best player? How close to 100 percent will he be when he returns? Even at 100 percent, will we see the 16.5-sack All-Pro monster of 2011 or the very good but not dominant 6.5-sack player of 2012?
Let's look at Pierre-Paul today as we continue our player-by-player breakdown of the 90-man roster the Giants will bring to training camp later this month.
2012 Season In Review
Maybe it was his back. Maybe it was too many snaps played on the left side instead of his natural right side. Maybe it was not adjusting to all the added attention he received from offenses in 2012. Maybe it was some combination of all three. Whatever the reason(s) JPP was not as good in 2012 as he was in 2011. His numbers were down across the board -- 16.5 sacks to 6.6, 86 tackles to 66, 72 hurries to 54 and an overall PFF grade of +29.2 in 2011 vs. a +23.2 in 2012.
Good, but not good enough to be the player the Giants need him to be.
Honestly, it all depends on his back. Anyone who has ever had back surgery (I have not) will tell you surgery is a last resort. Also, surgery or not, back issues tend to never go away completely. Can Pierre-Paul be fully ready when the season starts? If not, when will he be fully ready? Can he be great, not just very good?
We don't know the answers to any of these questions, we just have to wait and find out. The success of the Giants' defense is 2013 might well hinge on the answers.