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Jason Pierre-Paul is finally back to where the Giants need him to be

Jason Pierre-Paul has had a tough last year and a half. Against Jay Cutler and the Bears on Sunday, it looked he hasn't missed a beat.

Michael Reaves/Getty Images

At this point it seems like Jason Pierre-Paul's fateful Fourth Of July fireworks accident was eons ago rather than just last year. In the blink of an eye his whole world was turned upside down because of one bad decision.

Initially the primary concern was with his well being, but after it was clear that it wasn't a life threatening type of situation, other realities started to come into play. Here was a guy who had basically been at the top of his profession, but now his hand was severely mangled heading into what was supposed to be his contract year. There was literally no way of knowing how much that would effect his play.

Before the accident if JPP had been able to turn in another huge season in 2015, teams would have backed up Brinks Trucks, as in several, in an attempt to get him to sign with them. After the accident, it wasn't even a sure thing that he would ever play again at all.

Thankfully for him, he did make it back to the point where he was able to return, playing just eight games last season. At the same time he certainly wasn't close to being the same player as he experimented with different casts on his hand and he only ended up notching a single sack for the year.

I guess in the grand scheme of things, getting even one sack while trying to adjust to literally having pieces of your hand missing is actually quite a feat unto itself. But at the same time, that just isn't the kind of production that is normally going to get your pockets fat.

So instead of getting the top of the market contract that he would've reasonably expected to receive before last July,  JPP had to settle for getting far below what had been his fair market value on a one year "prove it" deal this spring while at the same time watching the Giants "cut the check" to free agent signee Olivier Vernon.


While I am sure the negative effect on his potential earnings was discouraging, what might've weighed even more heavily on Pierre-Paul this offseason was the question of whether he could ever again be the dominant player he had once been after all the damage he sustained to his right hand both from the fireworks explosion and from trying to play football with it last season. As a former defensive lineman, I had plenty of doubts of how he could possibly be effective with his hand being in the condition that it was.

See, defensive linemen use their hands so much for so many different things that if one of them isn't working properly, it can really take you out of your game. From something as simple as getting in your stance with your hand on the ground, to using your hands to take on blockers against the run, to trying to grab someone while trying to tackle them, to using your hands to knock and offensive lineman's hands off so you can get to the quarterback, to using your hands on power rushes, the list just goes on and on.

Mind you just injuring a finger or a wrist can hinder you from doing some of that stuff, but literally having fingers missing?

I couldn't even imagine how much harder that would make damn near everything a defensive lineman needs to be able to do. And that is especially true for a guy like JPP, who has always been a very powerful guy on the field.

* * *

To his credit JPP has found a way to make it work this year. Over the course of the season, he appears to have gotten more and more comfortable with using his "bad" right hand to the point where he is actually starting to look like the guy I remember watching on film from before last Fourth of July.

He still hadn't put up the ridiculous sack numbers, before last week, but I will make two quick points about that.

JPP has only had two seasons with double digit sacks. His value was always about more than just those numbers. At his best he was simply a game wrecker more than a pass rusher. He was a guy who was going to live in the opponent's backfield whether it was a run or pass. A guy who wouldn't let the opposing quarterback ever feel very comfortable in the pocket. A guy who was also going to knock down a lot of passes at the line of scrimmage to help kill drives that way as well. A guy who was so athletically gifted and strong AF that the opposing offense had to account for him on every single play lest he blow shit up.

Secondly, even though JPP only had 1.5 sacks before Sunday, he had been getting a lot of pressure on the quarterback. I won't ever say that hurries are as important as sacks, cuz, well, they just aren't, but they are for damn sure the next best thing when you aren't getting a ton of sacks.

If you watched JPP's film this year, and especially the last few weeks, you could definitely see that he was giving blockers hell on the regular and most couldn't block him one-on-one. In fact, I got the feeling watching him the past few weeks that JPP was due for a huge game pretty soon.

I just didn't realize that "pretty soon" was going to end up being Sunday against the Bears.

* * *

Tell you what, you turn on JPP's film against Chicago and you could easily mistake it for his 2014 film. And that's definitely a good thing. Yeah, he broke out and had a big sack day on Sunday, but I'm not talking about just that, either. If you can think back to everything you remember about JPP from a few years back that made him one of the most dominant defensive linemen in the league, I would say he flashed pretty much all of it at one point or another against the Bears this past weekend.

Look at the first play of the game on defense where JPP's quickness is on full display as he rips inside of Bears tight end Logan Paulsen to make a tackle.

Then peep how a couple of plays later head-up on Bears right tackle Mike Adams as JPP, bad hand and all, jacked him up into the backfield to make another tackle.

Before this season started I was very skeptical that JPP would ever be able to come off and straight up jack an offensive lineman like that again against the run, but man, did he prove me wrong. That was straight up power on power going against a dude who probably outweighs him by damn near 60 pounds. JPP just handled him like it was nothing.

When you are done marveling over JPP's power go to just before halftime where he pulls out his vintage move of getting into the offensive lineman and then knocking down the pass at the line of scrimmage. That was actually his eighth pass breakup of the season which is a career high in a season for him.

A couple of plays later with the Bears facing a third-and-10 at the Giants' 36-yard line, they appeared to convert a screen pass to rookie running back Jordan Howard that went for 10 yards. Only one minor problem: JPP had beaten Adams so badly on an inside move that Adams panicked and held him on a screen pass.

On. A. Screen. Pass.

That penalty not only negated what would have been a first down for the Giants, it also took them out of field goal range as well. After a completed pass to the other Chicago running back Jeremy Langford went for 4 yards on third-and-20 they ended up coming up empty handed on the drive and had to punt right before halftime instead of picking up at least three more points.

The score was 16-9 Bears at the time, by the way.

So as you can see, JPP was a problem for the Bears all day long in a variety of ways. But he was still saving his best for the fourth quarter when he really went awf.

First play of the fourth quarter with the Bears facing a second-and-17.

Pierre-Paul, again bad hand and all, came off and exploded into Adams and forklifted him right back into Chicago quarterback Jay Cutler's lap. He then came off inside and took Cutler down for a loss of 2 yards. That drive would end two plays later with a missed 51-yard field goal attempt.

The score at that point was 22-16 Giants.

Later, with the Bears facing a second-and-12 and 8:56 left in the game, JPP again drove Adams right back into Cutler and again came off inside to take him down for a sack and a loss of 6 yards.

This time Giants defensive tackle Johnathan Hankins got there right after JPP and was awarded half of the sack, but in my book Pierre-Paul got there first. Plus, it was his crushing of Adams that made the sack possible, so I'd have awarded him the full sack. After the Bears came up a yard short on third-and-18, they ended up having to punt again.

The score was still 22-16.

Fast forward to the end of the game. Chicago ended up having one more shot to win with the score still unchanged. Of course that meant JPP also had more opportunities to make plays.

With 2:47 left and the Bears facing a second-and-10 at the Giants' 43-yard line, JPP lined up inside at defensive tackle on right guard Ted Larsen. On the snap of the football, he took one step up the field and then suddenly shot inside with a rip move.

JPP was so quick with it that Larsen simply had no chance of blocking him. It was all Larsen could do just to basically horsecollar JPP from behind to stop him from getting to Cutler, whom Pierre-Paul still managed to flush from the pocket even after all that. Pierre-Paul forced another holding call which pushed the Bears back another 10 yards.

Somehow, some way, the Bears converted a second-and-20 to get another first down at the Giants' 30-yard line with two minutes left in the game. That should have been plenty of time for them to get into the end zone from such a short distance, but JPP had other ideas.

He came off as if he was going to power rush Adams again, but this time instead of going inside, which 76 was setting for, JPP ripped off outside and was able to swiftly get to Cutler, who was trying to back peddle away from him. Instead of just tackling Cutler again, however, Pierre-Paul used his left hand to knock the ball out of Cutler's grasp. The Bears ended up recovering the fumble, but in the process they lost 13 yards.

Cutler would, predictably, throw the game away with an interception to Giants safety Landon Collins just two plays later on second-and-29.

I know that the last year and a half or so must have sucked for JPP with all that he has been through, but the guy has certainly worked his ass off to get back to playing ball the way he is right now. I'm not even quite sure how he can bench press these days, but he is still tossing offensive linemen around like rag dolls. Maybe he still isn't quite what 2014 JPP was, but his performance Sunday showed he can still wreck an opponent's offensive game plan. If he can continue his strong play for the rest of the season, I think he will have shown enough that he will have an opportunity to sign that ginormous contract that eluded him this past offseason.

For this week, however, its more than enough that Jason Pierre-Paul finally had his breakout game and helped his team get a much needed win to stay right in the thick of the playoff race. The way he played -- being a part of three sacks, forcing two holding penalties, the pass break up, all vintage JPP -- made it an easy decision to name him my Hoss Of The Week for Week 11 of the NFL season.