Like so many other teams, the New York Giants have been forced to deal with an injury to a key player in the middle of the offseason. For the Giants, it’s defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul, who is set to have back surgery. Although the Giants claim that he is expected to return by the start of the season, backs are among the trickiest of body parts when dealing with serious injuries and major surgeries, so to know with certainty that Pierre-Paul will be back on the field a few months from now is premature. Without knowing for sure if Pierre-Paul will be healthy enough for the start of the season and how effective he may be if he does play, the Giants should be concerned about the well being of their defense.
In a way, New York was hoping to get a do-over in 2013. The Giants greatly underperformed on the defensive side of the ball in 2012, which put a lot of strain on their offense, and ultimately kept them out of the playoffs. The Giants are hoping to get bounce-back seasons from several key players on defense and quickly regain the status as Super Bowl contenders that they held heading into the 2012 season. Pierre-Paul was one of those key players that New York is counting on in 2013, so if he’s unavailable or not at his best it would be a huge detriment to the Giants defensively.
When the Giants have been good defensively in the past it has been because of their pass rush, and 2013 will be no different. New York had a porous secondary last season, to say the least, and they took only moderate steps towards improving it during the offseason. Meanwhile, they have overhauled the linebacker position completely, and whether or not they’re improved in that area of the field won’t be determined until the season starts. That leaves Pierre-Paul and the rest of the defensive line as the part of the defense that the Giants will have to lean on the most.
Like much of New York’s defense, Pierre-Paul had a down year in 2012, recording just 6.5 sacks. However, after finishing the 2011 season with 16.5 sacks, Pierre-Paul has the potential to be one of the top pass rushers in the NFL, if he’s healthy and able to regain the form he had two years ago. No one else on the Giants defense has the talent as a pass rusher that he does, and the ability to single handedly carry the defense. Pierre-Paul is a difference maker of the highest level, and while players like Justin Tuck and Mathias Kiwanuka add a lot to the pass rush, they can’t do what Pierre-Paul does, and they may not be able to fill the void if he doesn’t make it back in time for the start of the season, especially with Osi Umenyiora leaving New York in free agency, which has further depleted the Giant’s contingent of pass rushers.
With so many question marks at linebacker and in the secondary for the Giants, it will be up to the pass rush to carry the Giant’s defense in 2013, and the pass rush won’t be able to handle such a big responsibility without Pierre-Paul. For now, the Giants are expecting him back before the start of the season, but if that doesn’t happen, they could be in big trouble on defense yet again.