Waiting for JPP's Big Blue breakout

October, 30, 2013
10/30/13
6:00
PM ET
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- They know it's there.

It was just two seasons ago when the Giants watched Jason Pierre-Paul emerge as a defensive star by recording 16½ sacks during the team's Super Bowl campaign.

In the 24 games he's played since, Pierre-Paul has just 7½ sacks, including just one this year. After dealing with injuries and undergoing back surgery in June, he hasn't looked like the same player.

[+] EnlargeJason Pierre-Paul
AP Photo/Paul SpinelliGiants DE Jason Pierre-Paul has posted just one sack this season.
"He's playing pretty well against the run but we know we can get more out of him in the pass game," Giants defensive line coach Robert Nunn said Tuesday. "The last two games we've had opportunities to rush the passer and we have to get him going and play at the level he wants to play, and play at the level we all want him to play at."

As they ready for the second half of the season, the Giants are searching for ways to help Pierre-Paul be a more productive pass-rusher. A revitalized Pierre-Paul would help galvanize a Giants pass rush that has just 10 sacks this season, which is tied for second to last in the NFL.

"I think he can play better, obviously he hasn’t played up to the level that we’ve seen him play," Giants GM Jerry Reese said Tuesday. "I’m hoping after the bye week he can get recharged and come back and finish strong the second half of the season and play like the JPP that we know."

Nunn said Pierre-Paul has struggled "a little bit," but the coach acknowledged Pierre-Paul's absence in offseason training due to back surgery has set the youngster back, and that missed time is critical considering Pierre-Paul's lack of experience.

The coach stressed that Pierre-Paul, 24, needs to stay fundamentally sound, and the defensive end has perhaps pressed a little bit, searching for the proverbial home run with his pass rushes. Pierre-Paul has had opportunities the past two weeks, but has missed out on cashing in on those chances, according to Nunn.

Nunn said Pierre-Paul's issues may stem from a triggering issue, which is how a player transitions from stopping the run to playing the pass. The team has tried stressing to Pierre-Paul to not get frustrated and just stay within his assignment, and if he does that, the results should come.

"The last two games he's making improvement," Nunn said. "I could see him in the second half of the season having a breakout game. He has to stay focused and keep grinding, and that's what he's been doing so far, and get as healthy as he can."

Pierre-Paul isn't the only Giant struggling to reach the quarterback, as Mathias Kiwanuka leads the team with 2½ sacks, but Nunn said the unit didn't have many opportunities to get sacks early on. In the past two games, those chances have come, and the Giants have five sacks.

Nunn is also pleased with the rush defense, which ranks 10th in yards allowed per game.

"We’ve done a good job of stopping the run and creating a few more opportunities to try to get after the quarterback a little bit," Nunn said. "We show up a little more when that happens."

Matt Ehalt

ESPN New York contributor

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