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90-Man Roster Preview: Jason Pierre-Paul Is Back On Top

Two years after fireworks mishap, JPP has reclaimed spot among best defensive ends

NFL: New York Giants-OTA
JPP during OTAs.
Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports

Today is the Fourth of July, and it is an appropriate day to talk about New York Giants defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul. This marks the two-year anniversary of the career- and life-altering fireworks mishap that permanently maimed Pierre-Paul’s right hand and nearly ended his football career.

Let’s discuss Pierre-Paul remarkable comeback and where his career might go from here as we continue our player-by-player profiles of the Giants’ 90-man roster.

2016 Season In Review

Pierre-Paul played at a level last season few thought possible while playing with only a partial right hand.

Before undergoing season-ending surgery for a core muscle injury, Pierre-Paul had seven sacks in 12 games. He also had 53 tackles, or 4.4 per game. That’s the most tackles per game Pierre-Paul had made since his All-Pro 2011 season, when he averaged an absurd 5.8 tackles per game. At the time of his injury, Pierre-Paul was second in the league among defensive ends with eight passes defensed, and fifth in quarterback hurries with 24. Pierre-Paul had played 91 percent of the Giants’ defensive snaps prior to getting hurt.

Until he got hurt Pierre-Paul was having an excellent season, one that put him back among the league’s elite defensive ends.

“I think I dominated every game that I played last year. Not just the Cleveland game. That is basically how I see it. I think I dominated every game that I had played last year,” Pierre-Paul said this spring. “I look back on the tape and I saw a player who was just only getting better.”

2017 Season Outlook

Pierre-Paul earned a four-year, $62 million ($40 million guaranteed) contract from the Giants for his work last season, and for the overall excellent career he has had. Still, NFL teams don’t really pay for past production — they pay based on what they believe a player can do for them now and into the future.

The question for the Giants isn’t really what Pierre-Paul will give them in 2017. He is still only 28, and last season showed that he has plenty of strength and athleticism left, and that whatever issues are caused by his right hand he has learned to deal with them.

The question is more long term. How quickly will Pierre-Paul’s skills diminish, and will the Giants get their money’s worth during the duration of his deal. In addition to the hand issue, he had had the core muscle surgery, back surgery and shoulder issues. He has only played a full season once in the past four years.

Pierre-Paul said in the spring that he was still rehabbing from last season’s core muscle surgery, but he was on the field for every OTA media witness and did not appear limited in any way.

“I can be in better shape, but I will be ready to go come September,” Pierre-Paul said.

For now, though, the Giants should be glad they were able to bring Pierre-Paul back. When the off-season began I took the position that because of his skill set, the position he plays and the number of snaps he played, the Giants should prioritize JPP over Johnathan Hankins. They did, and they will be better for it in 2017.