GREEN BAY - Before a Fourth of July fireworks accident last year, New York Giants defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul was one of the NFL’s fiercest pass rushers.
He hasn’t had the same production since an explosion forced doctors to amputate his right index finger. Pierre-Paul had one sack after returning for the final eight games last fall. He has one sack through this season’s first four games.
In 2014, he finished with 12 1/2 sacks.
Pierre-Paul, who never has sacked Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers, is the heart of the Giants’ pass rush. His ability to get after the quarterback is what makes their defense tick. Despite only two sacks in his past 12 games, Pierre-Paul remains dangerous, Packers right tackle Bryan Bulaga said.
On film, Bulaga said, Pierre-Paul still looks like a pass-rush threat.
“I think as a player,” Bulaga said, “he looks the same. The way he moves and all that looks the same. I don’t notice anything different, I’ll just put it that way. To me, he looks like the same guy. Good motor, good pass rusher. Good against the run.”
After wearing a protective club over his right hand last year, Pierre-Paul has transitioned to a specially made glove this season. It allows more hand usage, a critical pass-rush component.
Bulaga said Pierre-Paul works around the limitation to his hand usage because it wasn’t the critical factor of his pass-rush skillset before. Instead, Pierre-Paul uses 34 3/4-inch arms to get leverage, and athleticism to burst around the edge.
“Very long arms,” Bulaga said. “So the way that he pass rushes, he doesn’t do a ton of hand fighting. He’s got such good movement, and he’s very smooth with his pass rush. Hand fighting is one thing. Grabbing, pulling is another thing. It doesn’t look like his pass rush has changed much since the accident. He looks like the same guy, and that’s a credit to him and what he’s been able to do.”