After the now infamous 4th July antics of the Giants’ pass rusher, Jason Pierre-Paul had a very indifferent return to the NFL with a fully protected hand that something resembled an oven glove. But now nearly 12 months on from the incident, JPP is looking to have a big bounce back season with a vastly improved supporting cast around him.
The big difference this year to his game will be the replacement of the massive white cast-like protection with a customised glove. This new glove looks like all the other gloves that NFL players use, but adjusted to match the remaining fingers on his right hand. This should allow him to firmly grip the ball or Offensive Linemen with his fingers rather than having no grip with the cast. Although all the natural physical talent he has was still on show, he seemed to struggle to get around defenders with the cast on and always seemed to keep him down a little bit more than he has shown in previous years.
With the new lightweight equipment, there have been multiple positive reports coming out of the Giants camp indicating he will look like his disruptive best this season. Another of the issues with his former mitt was whether he would be able to intercept a ball should it come his way, but the Giants released a video recently of JPP gripping a football fine in his new equipment which should put those concerns to rest, at least until it’s proven otherwise in a game situation.
However possibly an understated difference between his previous seasons with a full assortment of fingers and the tail end of last season will be his supporting cast. The Giants brought in Olivier Vernon and Damon Harrison this off-season in an attempt to give their defence a multi-pronged attack and improve a defence that finished 30th in sacks last season. Many times last season teams were setting 2 players the task of blocking Pierre-Paul; with either an Offensive Lineman and Running Back or, less frequently, two Offensive Linemen forced to fend him off. This season, with the disruption that Vernon and Harrison that have caused with their previous employers, at least one will be left with just a single man blocking. As JPP has shown in the past if you leave one man blocking him, more often than not he’ll be able to shed the block, put some serious pressure on the opposition QB and be at his terrifying best on a rejuvenated Giants Defensive Line.
A lot of eyes will be on Pierre-Paul at training camp to see if he can return to his pre-accident form where he earned the Franchise Tag just a year ago; and if he gets anywhere near that level of performance then there will be some NFL Defensive Co-ordinators with major headaches over him during the 2016 season.