Pierre-Paul missed the first half of the season recuperating from a July 4 fireworks accident that cost him his right index finger and parts of two others. But he returned to start the final eight games. In addition to his sack, he had 26 tackle (21 solo), six passes defensed, and two fumble recoveries.
>> GM JERRY REESE PRESSER TIDBITS
“After you look at that injury, it’s really, for me, people like to throw 'miracle' around, I think it’s a miracle that he was able to walk out there and play for eight games for us,” Reese said. “It’s really unbelievable after you really see what happened to his hand.”
Pierre-Paul recently underwent more surgery on the hand, and is confident of recapturing his status as one of the NFL’s finest defensive ends. He is a free agent. Reese didn’t say if the Giants intend to re-sign JPP, but he sounds interested.
“We know him better, I think, than anybody else would know him,” Reese said. “We’re hopeful that this
Reese also mentioned Pierre-Paul when he was asked about Johnathan Hankins, the standout defensive tackle who suffered a season-ending torn pectoral muscle at Tampa Bay on Nov. 8.
“It was tough to lose one of your big guys inside,” Reese said. “No blow is like the blow we got in July when we got the news about Jason; that was probably the biggest blow going into the season. During the season, obviously when you lose a defensive tackle the caliber of Hankins, that’s a blow, too. You got to have enough depth to continue to play football, and that’s what we need to do. We need to acquire more depth on our football team.
“(Hankins) was doing a good job for us and unfortunately he had the injury. We hope that young guys like him can continue to develop and be good players for us for a long time."
Reese spoke during his annual 15-minute turn on the podium at the NFC Scouting Combine in Indianapolis. He was customarily vague regarding the team’s objectives in the draft and the upcoming free agency signing period.
But he spoke convincingly about his belief that the Giants are not far from playoff contention, despite their 6-10 record. He noted the score was close in the fourth quarter in almost all of their losses, and that teams can quickly and significantly upgrade their talent bases in one offseason.
“If we close out a couple of games, we could be 10-6 last season,” Reese said. “We lost a lot of games close (when) we had the lead going in late in the fourth quarter in a few games. We just didn’t close them out, and that’s for a number of reasons. It’s personnel, we made some bad decisions … we couldn’t run the ball like we wanted to at the end of some games. We just got to make some plays sometimes at the end of games to close games out. A few plays here and there, we could be 10-6 instead of 6-10. That’s the way the National Football League is, there are not a lot of blowouts. You have to go in there and finish games out and we didn’t do that enough. We want to do that better this time.”
To do so, they’ll need to upgrade the roster. The Giants, after all, finished 19th in the league in rushing yardage (100.6 yards a game) and were ranked last in total defense.
Is it realistic to think they can fill all of their needs in free agency and the draft?
“This is the National Football League, you can get well pretty quickly in the National Football League,” Reese said. “You can get players in free agency, you can get players in the draft, you can get players in trades. Again, we lost a lot of close games. A couple snaps here and there, our season could have went a different way, but it didn’t. We have work to do obviously, but I think we’re close enough to believe that we can compete for the NFC East. I don’t think anybody is running away with it, I think the NFC East is a close division still. I think we can put together a team that can challenge for that NFC East crown next year.”
Reese discussed several other subjects in his meeting with reporters:
*On Ereck Flowers and Justin Pugh, the Giants’ first-round draft choices in 2015 and 2013, respectively.
“We think Ereck Flowers is a left tackle,” Reese said. “We think he’s going to be our left tackle moving forward. He was up and down a little bit during the season. He really looked good at times, then he looked like a rookie at times. That rookie wall, I think he hit that at some point as well. But he’s a tough kid that stayed out there the whole time. Mike Solari is our new offensive line coach and we’re looking forward to see what he can do with him moving forward.
“Pugh is kind of flexible for us. He can play, obviously, both guard, both tackles. We’ll put him in the best place available for us to be successful. I’m not sure exactly where; that’s Coach McAdoo and Coach Solari. Those guys will make that decision.”
*Reese said tight end Larry Donnell, who missed the second half of the season with a neck injury suffered at New Orleans, has not been cleared to return to action.
“Will Tye who came on, was on the practice squad, we brought him up and he really did a nice job for us,” Reese said. “We expect him to continue to develop and grow and be a good piece for us at that position. Larry Donnell had the neck injury, he’s coming back and hopefully he’ll be able to continue to play. We’re expecting him to be back, but necks can be tricky so we’ll have to wait and see where that goes. There’s a couple young tight ends on the roster that we like.”
*On whether he agrees with McAdoo, who said yesterday he “absolutely” expects Cruz to be on the team this year, and if he will restructure Cruz’s contract. Cruz missed the entire 2015 season with a calf injury after he was limited to six games the previous season because of a torn patellar tendon.
“I’m not going to talk about the contract,” Reese said. “Victor is under contract right now. Victor is working hard to get healthy. From everything I understand right now, he’s headed in the right direction and we’ll worry about the contract. But right now, he’s under contract. I’m not really going to talk about the contract situation with Victor right now.”
*On the team’s rushing attack.
“The run game came on late the last quarter of the season,” Reese said. “I thought the run game came on pretty strong. Hopefully, we can carry over into next season and keep the run game. I think that was part of the late season, along with some defensive issues. I didn’t think we were able to run the ball like you should to close those games out. Rashad Jennings had more carries and got in better rhythm. I think the run game will continue to progress and help us into the next season.”
*On what the Giants need in free agency and the draft.
“We need good players, that’s what we need the most,” Reese said. “We need good players, and we’ll try to look for good players at every level - offense, defense, special teams. That’s what we’ll do, that’s what’s important to us. We need help all over the roster and we’ll work hard to do that."