We don't know for certain the extent of the injuries to the hand of Jason Pierre-Paul. We don't know how much time, if any, Pierre-Paul will miss. We don't know yet if the New York Giants will put Pierre-Paul on the non-football injury list, in which case they would not have to pay him until he came off the list, or how they might proceed.
Jordan Ranaan updated JPP's condition just a short time ago.
Jason Pierre-Paul remains at Jackson Memorial Hospital in Miami as of this morning w/his family. No further update on his status #Giants— Jordan Raanan (@JordanRaanan) July 6, 2015
Fact that JPP remains in hospital 36 hrs or so after accident tells you damage not minor #Giants— Jordan Raanan (@JordanRaanan) July 6, 2015
Whether it is a game, four games, half the season, the whole season or whatever, let's assume there will be a period of time during which the Giants will be without Pierre-Paul. How do the Giants fill in for their most complete defensive end?
What Pierre-Paul brings to the table
Whatever you think of Pierre-Paul, he is the closest thing the Giants have to a proven, dominant defensive end. He is the one edge rusher the Giants have who opposing offenses have to locate, and often double team. Chris was correct in putting JPP on his All-NFC East defensive team.
The view here has always been that Pierre-Paul is not a great pass rusher, rather a very good, very streaky one. He had the 16.5-sack 2012 season and the 12.5-sack season a year ago, but little in between. He got nine of his sacks last season during a season-ending five-game stretch that raised as many questions as it answered. Was that just a contract push? Where was that kind of dominance the first two-thirds of the season, or the previous two years? Can he do that consistently?
Those questions are why the Giants used the franchise tag on Pierre-Paul rather than hand him a long-term deal. Still, Pierre-Paul is the only Giants' defensive end with a double-digit sack season. George Selvie had seven in 2013, and Robert Ayers had 5.5 in 2013.
The other difficulty for the Giants is that whether Pierre-Paul is a premier pass rusher or not, it is pretty much inarguable that he is a premier run defender. Pierre-Paul was sixth among 4-3 defensive ends in run defense last season with a +11.9 Pro Football Focus score. In 2013, a down year, he was 11th at +6.4. In 2012, he was a league-best +12.8 vs. the run.
Remaining defensive ends
Robert Ayers, George Selvie, Damontre Moore, Kerry Wynn, Owamagbe Odighizuwa, Brad Harrah, Jordan Stanton
Ayers has 17 sacks over six seasons, 10.5 the past two years, and is not considered a great run defender. Selvie has 13 sacks in five seasons but is considered solid against the run. Wynn was an undrafted free agent who impressed last season with 1.5 sacks, 17 tackles, a pass defensed and an interception in five games. Moore had 5.5 sacks last season and the Giants are still hoping the third-year player becomes more than a situational pass rusher. Odighizuwa is a rookie third-round pick. Harrah and Stanton seem unlikely to make the team.
Defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo and defensive line coach Robert Nunn are going to have to do a masterful job of getting the right players on the field for the right downs and distances if Pierre-Paul misses time. The Giants do have players with some skills vs. run or pass, but limited options for every-down defensive ends.
Best guess is that Ayers was going to end up starting at one defensive end, anyway. At least on early downs, the veteran Selvie, 28, would seem like the logical replacement for JPP if the Giants are without him. Selvie, 6-foot-4, 270 pounds, is a solid run defender who graded at a team-best +7.1 vs. the run a season ago. Problem is, despite his seven sacks in 2013 he is not a big-time pass rusher, with only a -9.9 PFF score in that area last season.
If the Giants play Selvie on that side with Devon Kennard behind him, the run defense might not suffer dramatically. Wynn also showed the potential to be a solid all-around player, so perhaps he gets some snaps on early downs. Odighizuwa, regarded as a quality run defender at UCLA, could also fit into the mix if he develops quickly enough. Veteran defensive end Cullen Jenkins worked in Pierre-Paul's spot during the spring and perhaps could figure in the run defense from the edge. He would seem to be a liability from the edge, however, as a pass rusher.
So, what about the pass rush?
The Giants do have options here, but trying to replace the only edge rusher they have who might demand a double team is a definite disadvantage.
Ayers and Moore would have to figure as part of the solution on passing downs. Odighizuwa or Wynn could be part of a NASCAR-type package, perhaps with Ayers moving inside.
Perhaps the Giants could also leave defensive tackle Johnathan Hankins (seven sacks in 2014) or second-year man Jay Bromley on the field as an inside rusher on passing downs.
Another solution would involve outside linebacker Devon Kennard, who had 4.5 sacks in limited duty last season. Blitzing Kennard off the edge as a fifth rusher is an option. So is using Kennard occasionally as a hand in the ground defensive end on passing downs, something Kennard did collegiately at USC.
No matter what personnel packages the Giants ultimately decide on, getting the right mix and replacing JPP's production would be a huge challenge for Spagnuolo and Nunn.