The New York Giants got great news this week when star defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul came off the physically unable to perform (PUP) list and returned to practice for the first time since having to undergo back surgery to repair a herniated disc.
Without JPP being able to play, it would have truly diminished the chance of the defensive line to really have success, as it would have shortened the depth and taken away the lack of options the Giants and defensive coordinator Perry Fewell would have if he weren't on the field. The team has been without him for the preseason, but most fans knew this going in that he wouldn't be available and if it meant getting him back for the regular season, then him not playing in the preseason was no big deal.
But one player who was very glad to see his teammate return to the team and practice was veteran Mathias Kiwanuka, who shifted back from outside linebacker to defensive end in wake of JPP's injury earlier in the summer. With JPP back in the fold, it gives the team a lot of pass-rushing options at defensive end like JPP, Kiwanuka, Justin Tuck, Damontre Moore. Plus, the Giants shored up the middle of the line by adding in major names like Cullen Jenkins to go with Shaun Rogers and Linval Joseph and drafted Johnathan Hankins.
While all of those names are expected to contribute to the team in 2013. Kiwanuka told Dave Hutchinson of the Newark-Star Ledger that they could do more than just contribute and feel that they are some of the best talent assembled.
“Up front, I think we have the ability to take this to the Super Bowl,” he said. “We have all the ability we’ve had in years part. We just have to put it together.”
Last season the pass-rush struggled to generate any kind of pressure to get to the quarterback and late in the season, the defense really struggled to stop the run, which was another reason why the Giants and their 31st ranked defense from a year ago had to make changes. Thus far, the Giants have improved in their run defense; as they held the New York Jets on Saturday to 18 rushing yards on 12 carries; which was a 1.5 yard average. The previous week against the Indianapolis Colts, the Giants held them to 2.7 yards per carry.
The only thing that has been missing in the summer is the premier pass rusher, but as Kiwanuka said, with JPP now back on the field and potentially on target to return for the regular season opener on September 8, everything should fall into place now.
“When we have all of our pass rushers on the field, teams have to make a decision on who they’re going to leave single-blocked,” Kiwanuka said. “We always feel like that one individual who gets that single should win.”
If the Giants decide to hold out JPP for the preseason finale against the New England Patriots at Gillette Stadium on Thursday night, Kiwanuka will likely get the start again in his place like he has for the first three preseason games this summer.
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