EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — Seven games into a disappointing season, New York Giants defensive catalyst Jason Pierre-Paul is getting the feeling he’s back.
The former Pro Bowl defensive end probably had his best game of the year Monday night in a 23-7 win over Minnesota.
Pierre-Paul’s statistics weren’t impressive. He had two tackles, two quarterback hurries and defended a pass as the Giants (1-6) ended their worst start since 1976.
What the numbers don’t show was that Pierre-Paul, who had back surgery in June, was in the backfield more than he has been all season. By his count he was near quarterback Josh Freeman nine times and had a chance for five sacks, four more than he has this season.
“I wasn’t expecting myself to come out and be Superman,” Pierre-Paul said Thursday. “That’s something that is ridiculous if anyone thought that would be possible. I am (being) me and all the players see I’m trying to get back to my regular state. That’s all that counts.”
Pierre-Paul said he isn’t the player who had a breakout season in 2011. He had six sacks last year playing in back pain and has struggled coming off surgery to repair a disk. He missed training camp and wasn’t set for the season, though he hasn’t missed a game.
The biggest difference is his strength. It’s just not the same and he feels it might not get back to normal this year.
“The way I rush the passer. I feel like I’m catching a lot, I’m catching my opponents a lot,” he said. “I’m not being a threat to them how I used to be. And that’s basically it, turning the corner how I used to turn it.”
Defensive coordinator Perry Fewell said Pierre-Paul is pressing to get back to the way he played in 2011 and isn’t there yet. His approach as a coach has been to be patient, knowing each game back gets Pierre-Paul closer to the goal.
“The biggest thing for us is we believe in him and he has to believe in himself,” Fewell said.