Pierre-Paul is still recovering from offseason back surgery that kept him from participating in all the preseason games. He was activated from the PUP list on Aug. 26.
The All-Pro defensive end led the Giants in sacks in 2011 with 16.5, but saw his total dwindle to 6.5 in 2012. Last season, Pierre-Paul struggled to shed double teams as teams game-planned to keep him from getting to their quarterback.
The Giants also lacked a second pass rusher to help handle the load. Justin Tuck has not been the same player he was after dealing with several serious injuries, and Osi Umenyiora failed to step up, finishing the year with just six sacks.
On Sunday night, the impact of Pierre-Paul’s presence will be obvious. When healthy, he is one of the league’s best pass rushers and he can open up the field for teammates if opposing offensive lines choose to double him.
The Giants also have better support this season if teams do try and double Pierre-Paul. The defensive line is much improved from a year ago with the addition of Cullen Jenkins and the emergence of Linval Joseph. Mathias Kiwanuka has also been moved back to defensive end, his natural position, and Tuck is supposed to be healthier than he has been in years.
The New York pass rush has to keep Tony Romo under duress. If given time, Romo will pick apart the secondary with the help of an arsenal of targets, including tight end Jason Witten along with wide receivers Dez Bryant and Miles Austin. The Cowboys had four 100-yard receivers in two games against the Giants last season.
No matter how good the Giants secondary plays, they won’t be able to keep these guys quiet for all four quarters. Without Pierre-Paul, the Giants will struggle to generate a consistent pass rush. They have good players along the line, but it starts with Pierre-Paul. He’s the man behind the wheel and it’s his foot on the gas.
The presence of Pierre-Paul won’t be the be-all and end-all. However, in his absence, the defense is going to need a high-powered performance from the offense to escape with a win on Sunday night.
Daniel Brennan covers the New York Giants for Rant Sports. He lives in Westchester, New York and is a graduate of Quinnipiac University.