Bill Belichick has seen a lot of players come through the NFL in his 37 years of coaching. There haven’t been many quite like Giants defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul.
“He’s very rare,” Belichick said Tuesday.
That word — rare — came up four times from Belichick during the one minute he discussed Pierre-Paul. JPP’s combination of “athleticism, size, and explosiveness” sets the second-year player apart.
Belichick was asked if Pierre-Paul ever made plays on film that made Belichick stop and say “wow.”
“Probably about five times a game he has plays like that,” Belichick interjected before the question was even out. “He comes out of nowhere and makes a tackle. Or jumps ten feet in the air and bats down a ball. Or makes an athletic move at the line of scrimmage while keeping his balance. He’s a rare athlete.”
Pierre-Paul’s personal journey from Boston Market to the NFL is remarkable. The Creole speaker describes his background as “very rough.” But the football journey the Haitian Sensation has taken in two short years is amazing in its own right.
Teammate Justin Tuck said Pierre-Paul was “very raw” when he entered the league.
“On a scale of 1-10, I would say 1,” Tuck said.
One year later, Pierre-Paul is a leading Defensive Player of the Year candidate. He finished with 16.5 sacks, 86 tackles, and more game-changing defensive plays than anyone in football. Teammates Osi Umenyiora, Mathias Kiwanuka, and Tuck all credited Pierre-Paul’s improved understanding of the game.
“He does actual pass rush moves now,” Umenyiora now. “Not just overpowering offensive linemen.”
Pierre-Paul dismissed that idea.
“I don’t have nothing man,” he said with a laugh. “It’s whatever comes to mind. . . . It’s ‘what’s the next move if this one doesn’t work?’ My next move is whatever comes to my head.”
Pierre-Paul has learned more about the game, but we see a simpler explanation for his breakout year. The guy never seems to get tired. His effort is the same in the middle of the fourth quarter as it is in the first quarter. Draft analysts questioned Pierre-Paul’s motor coming out of college, but his hustle sets him apart.
Combine his talent with that sort of effort and you have the potential for greatness.
“He’s a supreme athlete. He plays the game with a lot of hustle. He finishes plays. If you watch him from game-to-game, he throws his body around,” Patriots guard Brian Waters said. “There aren’t many people in the history of the game that can do some of the thing he does athletically. But there’s a lot of talented guys that haven’t worked as hard or hustled as much.”
Pierre-Paul genuinely doesn’t seem to understand the buzz around him. He’s the type of supremely gifted athlete that doesn’t see himself as special. He doesn’t realize how much better he can get.
“It’s just the will to play. You gotta keep going full strength, full speed. You know people are watching, so put on a show,” Pierre-Paul said.
A lot of people will be watching Sunday. Don’t be surprised if JPP puts on a show.