Scouts Inc.'s Matt Williamson looks at NFC East players on the verge of a breakout in 2011.
Defensive end Mathias Kiwanuka is coming off a neck injury and is a free agent. Re-signing him probably will not be a huge priority for the Giants. That is because they have Jason Pierre-Paul. And last year’s first-round draft pick needs to get on the field with more regularity.
The most important things to stress with Pierre-Paul right now are that he is only 21 years old and he might have more innate ability than any defensive end in football. He is just dripping with amazing talent. And he is in an excellent situation to fulfill that infinite potential.
Even without Kiwanuka, the Giants won’t be forced to put this young player on the field more than he is ready for. As they did so adeptly during his rookie season, the Giants will bring along Pierre-Paul slowly. But given what he showed during his rookie season, it might become very difficult to resist the temptation of playing him a lot.
Pierre-Paul might be ready to handle all the responsibilities that come with heavy playing time. He will be a work-in-progress in terms of reading run-blocking combinations and how to best set up his opponent with pass-rush moves. But he just makes a ton of plays. Game-day repetitions should bring the best out of this amazing specimen.
Although he was mostly used on throwing downs, Pierre-Paul’s run defense was not a liability in 2010, but there is room for improvement there -- especially as an early-down player in the physical NFC East. Rushing the passer comes very naturally to Pierre-Paul. And it wouldn’t surprise me at all if he is considered among the best dozen or so pass-rushers in the NFL by this time next year. Last year, the Giants’ defensive line was among the best pass-rushing fronts in the league. This year, it could be significantly better -- mostly because of Pierre-Paul’s maturation.
Scouts Inc. watches games, breaks down film and studies football from all angles for ESPN.com.