Well, this is newsy, no? Adam Schefter reports that New York Giants defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul is having back surgery today. I mean, I know the report says the Giants expect him back in time for the season, but you never know with surgeries, or backs, and so you have to worry at least a little bit if you're a Giants fan.
We've discussed this on here before, but the reason Pierre-Paul matters to the Giants as much as any player other than Eli Manning is that he has a level of talent that could help elevate the team above its annual nine-win pattern and back into championship form. His emergence and dominance down the 2011-12 stretch was a big reason the Giants' pass rush was able to help deliver the team's most recent Super Bowl title. And while there is some level of coverage here -- Mathias Kiwanuka is certainly good enough to take over as a starting defensive end in Pierre-Paul's place, and as Ohm writes here there are younger guys who should get more offseason reps now -- there's no one on the team with Pierre-Paul's blend of speed, athleticism and instinct for the pass rush. Put simply, when he's at his best, Pierre-Paul has the ability to win a game by himself, as he did a critical game in Dallas in December of 2011.
The Giants have major question marks at every level of their defense as this offseason gets underway. The linebacker corps is a total mystery, and there are legitimate questions about how much they improved a secondary that was a big problem for them last year. The whole thing works off the pass rush, and without Pierre-Paul that pass rush becomes less dominant. When the pass rush becomes less dominant, the weaknesses at the second and third levels become more pronounced.
Now, maybe the optimistic timetable is to be trusted. Maybe Pierre-Paul's relative struggles last year were due to a back injury and the fact that he's getting it taken care of is a good thing that will help him return to peak form in 2013. Maybe he really can't be 100 percent ready in time for the season opener three months from now. But if he's not -- if there are setbacks in his recovery or if it goes slowly -- the Giants will have added a monster concern at a position where they previously had reason to expect to be not solid but spectacular.