New York Giants’ defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo was available to the media on Thursday for the first time since the news that star defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul would be lost for the season. Spagnuolo said he was “crushed” by the news.
“Nobody is as crushed as I am and he is. I wish him well. I am glad that he is on the road to recovery. That is a tough thing to go through. I felt that he was doing one of those (gestures that he was on the rise) and certainly when you have a guy of his caliber on the rise, it makes our whole unit on the rise,” Spagnuolo said. “But any time this happens, everybody else has to step up their game and if you can come together as a unit and everybody can get better as a unit, then you can survive. We will miss him. You can’t replace him, but you just have to find other ways to make up for the production that he has given us.”
Pierre-Paul is second on the Giants in sacks with seven. He is second in the NFL among defensive ends with eight passes defensed, and his 24 hurries has him tied with teammate Olivier Vernon for fifth in the league.
Spagnuolo said the remaining defense players are ready for the challenge.
“This is a confident, bold group. Look, guys that make it in this league are prideful guys. Every one of them thinks that they should be starting, should be a great player. They don’t get to this level if they don’t do that, so every guy, to a man – I haven’t seen anybody blink,” he said. “I go in those meetings and out on the field and I don’t see anybody blinking, so hopefully we can put something together on the field without JPP that is going to make everybody proud.”
Pierre-Paul will be replace by some combination of Kerry Wynn, Romeo Okwara and Owa Odighizuwa.
“Those will be the three guys that will find some time in there, inside and outside. That is where we are going to have to get it from,” Spagnuolo said. “They have been hearing all the same things that everybody else has, they have been in the system now, all those guys for a year and a half. It is time for those guys to step up. I think that they will face the challenge, we will see what we come up with, but we are going to let those guys go out there and roll.”
Here are more takeaways from Spagnuolo.
On Dallas tight end Jason Witten ...
“Yeah, we have gone against this guy a lot. He makes a lot of plays, he is still every bit as threatening as a pass receiver and I think he is a better blocker now. I think he has taken that on as a challenge, to be a good blocker, he does that really well. He will have to be a focus, but it is the same thing that we have faced in the other games, pick your poison. Who do you want to take away? Last week we, in some regard, did what we wanted to do. 84 (Antonio Brown) had that touchdown, but we didn’t want him to wreck the game and throw the ball down field and they didn’t do that. They had some other places that they could go and they did. This team presents the same problem. They have a running back, they have a wide out that can wreck the game, they have a tight end that is crafty – they have a slot receiver who makes a lot of people miss when he gets open, so we will put something together, let the guys play and hopefully it is well enough to win the football game.”
On rookie running back Ezekiel Elliott ...
“Zeke Elliot just gets better and better. I thought that he was pretty good when we played him the first week, but he gets better and better. There isn’t anything that I can say about him that hasn’t been said. The guy leads the league in rushing for a lot of different reasons, but mainly because he is a good football player.”