Jason Pierre-Paul questionable for Week 1 after back surgery; Giants' defense may be in trouble
Defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul underwent back surgery on Tuesday, and his timetable has been set at approximately 12 weeks - Week 1 is just over 12 weeks away. JPP battled chronic back issues during a disappointing 2012 campaign, so the surgery may help him get back to the elite status he earned in 2011.
However, ESPN's Adam Schefter has reported that Pierre-Paul's status for Week 1 is a "guessing game," and the Giants' defense could be in serious trouble if JPP starts the season on the sidelines.
The Giants let Osi Umenyiora head off to Atlanta in free agency, so they now have a hole to fill opposite of Justin Tuck. Mathias Kiwanuka - who has moved back to end after failing to effectively transition to linebacker in 2012 - is the frontrunner to start and get most of the snaps in Pierre-Paul's absence. Draft day free-faller Damontre Moore could also factor in quite a bit if he impresses during training camp. Once considered a likely top-five draft pick, the Giants will hope that Moore can revert to the on-field dominance he displayed while playing for Texas A&M.
Even the spot opposite of Kiwanuka/Moore is more of a question mark than it may appear. People seem to be underestimating the recent struggles of Justin Tuck. Since earning a trip to the Pro Bowl in 2010, Tuck has battled nagging injuries, and he has registered only 9.0 sacks over the past two seasons. Now 30 years old, it's hard to say how effective Tuck will be, and injuries are a concern.
Even if Pierre-Paul can get healthy enough to play in Week 1, he'll have had no preseason action and likely no significant participation in training camp. Fans often undervalue the importance of preseason preparation, and it may take JPP a few weeks to get into full swing.
The Giants fielded the 31st ranked defense in 2012, though they did manage to finished 12th in points allowed. However, they'll definitely be missing Umenyiora (who finished second on the team in sacks with 6.0 last year), and perhaps Pierre-Paul as well (who led the team with 6.5). With question marks remaining at linebacker and cornerback, Eli Manning and company may have to regularly light up the scoreboard to pick up victories.