Yes, Jason Pierre-Paul has something left

by Gary Shelton on April 6, 2018 · 0 comments

in general, NFL, Tampa Bay Bucs

Pierre-Paul should add energy to the Bucs defense

Pierre-Paul should add energy to the Bucs defense

Friday, 4 a.m.

In Tampa Bay, we have learned not to trust the off-season. The Bucs lead the league in "it-was-a-good-idea-at-the-time" signings.

There was Alvin Harper, the Dallas Cowboy receiver who was going to juice the passing attack. But Harper had been a complimentary player for the Cowboys. He was lost as a would-be impact player.

There was Chris Chandler, who was Ray Perkins' most tragic mistake. Perkins traded the No. 4 pick in the draft for Chandler, who never won a start for the Bucs.

There was Anthony Collins, who didn't even finish the year out on the roster. There was Michael Johnson, who couldn't get close to the quarterback. There was Byron Leftwich, who flopped as a quarterback. There was Derrick Ward, who couldn't get off of the bench.There was Charlie Garner, who limped into the sunset.

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Pierre-Paul should add a pass rush to Bucs.

Pierre-Paul should add a pass rush to Bucs.

And so on.

So it was that I questioned how much Jason Pierre-Paul had left. Hey, we all appreciate what Pierre-Paul has done over his career. But right now, it's fair to wonder if he can still play.

Because of that, I reached out to my friend Mike Vaccaro of the New York Post. Vac and I have been buddies for years. I trust him as much as I trust anyone in the business.

Here is his response to an email from me this week:

"He can definitely still play," Vac says. "It is a little halting at first when you see him with the contraption on his hand, and that probably does cost him a tackle every now and then, but his instincts are as sharp as ever and he still has an innate nose for the ball. Of the many, many problems the Giants had last year, JPP was not even close to being one of them."

Want to hear more? Here's a column that Vaccaro wrote about Pierre-Paul from 2011, after the Giants beat Dallas 37-34:

"ARLINGTON , Tex. - In the middle of the scrum, in the rush of a moment, Pierre-Paul figured he still had a full night's work ahead of him. He had tried once more to bull-rush the place-kicker over one of the guards, and missed, and he had heard the crowd erupt.

Vaccaro

Vaccaro

"Overtime," he said to himself, figuring the delight of 95,952 people had to indicate Cowboys kicker Dan Bailey had drilled his 47-yard field goal, tied the game at 37, forced a little time-and-a-half on the Giants and the Cowboys.

Then, over the din, Pierre-Paul heard something else: the voice of referee Scott Green.

"Timeout, New York," Green said. "Third and final timeout.

And suddenly, a thought occurred to Jason Pierre-Paul.

"There's no reason we HAVE to have overtime."

Pierre-Paul had already had one of the greatest games of his two-year career. It had started with a sack of Tony Romo five minutes into the game that yielded two critical points when Romo wound up stumbling into the end zone for a safety. He added another sack later on. Just before halftime he had stripped Felix Jones of the ball, setting up a field goal.

"He's really something else," coach Tom Coughlin said later, smiling the kind of smile you rarely see from a head coach in December.

Timeout over, Pierre-Paul figured he would have to try something different. Time after time last night, he had come after Bailey from an angle. Now he would try something else. As the ball was snapped, Pierre-Paul came right up the gut, leaving tread marks on long snapper L.P. Ladouceur, raising his hands, together, over his head, as high as they would go.

And then, he said, extending his left hand, showing where football had collided with flesh, showing the place where the game had gone to die for the Cowboys, the place where the Giants' impossible 37-34 comeback for the ages had been etched into the books forever.

"I felt the ball hit my hand," Pierre-Paul said, "and I knew one thing: no overtime.

The Giants would have been buried long before if not for Pierre-Paul, who terrorized the Cowboys on one side of the ball, and Eli Manning, who tortured them on the other. The Cowboys had seized a 34-22 lead with six minutes left, mostly because, as dominant as Pierre-Paul had been, it's impossible for him to play safety, cornerback and nickel back, too.

Manning brought them back, throwing a touchdown pass to Jake Ballard, rushing them back down the field and handing off to Brandon Jacobs for the go-ahead score. A week ago, they discovered 58 seconds was too long to let an elite quarterback play with their fate; last night it was 46 seconds, and even if Tony Romo is no Aaron Rodgers, he was good enough to get the Cowboys within range a second week in a row.

Last week against the Cardinals in Phoenix, Bailey had made what looked to be a game-winning field goal in OT before he realized his own coach, Jason Garrett, had frozen him with a timeout.

This time it was Coughlin utilizing the more conventional strategy of icing the other guys' kicker.

And this time, it was Pierre-Paul who interceded the second time, not Bailey's own nerves. Pierre-Paul, who after the game had a humble message that ought to send shivers through the rest of the NFC.

"I'm still learning," he said. "There's still so much more I can do better, so much more I can do to help this team."

He is a young defensive lineman on the Giants, which means he has one of the best internships in football, with Jason Tuck and Osi Umenyiora offering daily advice and alums like Michael Strahan on call for occasional seminars.

"No place better to learn what I want to learn," he said.

And no time better to put all of it into practice than last night, fourth quarter, a season hanging in the balance and a football zooming straight for him.

"We needed to have a little celebration," Coughlin said. "We'd been starving."

The kid lineman picked up the tab, and picked up his teammates, too. Something else."

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