Now that Jason Pierre-Paul is out for the rest of the season, we examine possible replacements along the edge for the New York Giants.
JPP had surgery on a sports hernia he suffered against Pittsburgh, which requires a six-week recovery time. That would make his earliest possible return to the Giants the NFC Championship game, which I doubt is on the radar of this New York team as they focus on their upcoming matchup with Dallas.
However, as far as losses go, Pierre-Paul’s injury undoubtedly creates one of the worst possible scenarios for the Giants’ defense. JPP has played on 90.8% of New York’s defensive snaps this season, second on the team (and in the entire NFL for that matter) only to
JPP has played on 90.8 percent of New York’s defensive snaps this season, second on the team (and in the entire NFL for that matter) only to Olivier Vernon, who has played 92.8 percent of defensive snaps for the Giants this season. He was well on his way to an NFL Comeback Player of the Year award this year and remains one of the most important players on the Giants’ defense.
Of these three men, Okwara has seen by far the most snaps, but has played the majority of them as a third down pass rusher in the middle of the defensive line. While Giants fans may remember Okwara from his bone-headed penalty during the Redskins game, he has actually provided a spark to the New York defensive line late in the season.
Pro Football Focus ranks Okwara as the Giants’ most underutilized player, especially because of his versatility as a defensive lineman. Perhaps the undrafted rookie will be able to surprise a lot of people when he steps in for JPP this Sunday.
Next on the depth chart is likely Odighizuwa, who the Giants have been waiting to break out since they took him in the third round of the 2015 NFL Draft. Considered one of the best athletes in the draft when he was at UCLA, Double O was considered the next JPP when he was selected. Owa is an absolute athletic freak, who took up football at a later age, and is still learning the finer points of the game.
Rounding out the defensive end rotation is Kerry Wynn, the most veteran member of the Giants’ pass rushing crew. Wynn is another undrafted free agent for New York, looking to make an impact in his third season on the team. Wynn is especially adept against the run, and against the NFL’s best rushing offense in Dallas, the Giants will need all the help they can get.
Expect Wynn to play a lot of early downs against the Cowboys, as well as short yardage situations, where they expect Dallas will utilize Ezekiel Elliott or one of their other talented running backs.
Certainly, JPP’s injury is devastating, but Giants fans should feel lucky that it comes at one of their deepest positions. Unlike the injuries along the offensive line, where New York has had to piece together a misfit group of linemen, JPP’s injury won’t leave the Giants unable to fill his shoes.
All three backup defensive ends are replacement level players, and if they are used correctly, the drop off from JPP’s absence will be minuscule. Certainly, losing your star defensive end the week before facing your division rival is not ideal, but the players they have lined up to take over have a massive opportunity to make their mark on this Giants defense.