Justin Tuck had a breakout game against the Skins on Sunday. Credit: Getty Images
The Giants have acknowledged all week they are leery of the Chargers’ potent offense. But San Diego needs to worry about a Big Blue pass rush that has been revitalized.
When New York ventures out west with their playoff hopes on the brink, they’ll be bringing the reigning NFC Defensive Player of the Week in defensive end Justin Tuck — who had four sacks last week — and hopefully his bookend, Jason Pierre-Paul, who sat out last week’s win over Washington with an injured shoulder.
While Pierre-Paul (two sacks in six starts) has had a down season — which was stifled due to offseason back surgery — the Chargers (5-7) are still wary about what Big Blue’s pass rush can do to their game plan.
“I think the stats and the numbers are more for the newspapers and just to talk about the stats. But, I think, as players, we turn on the tape and just because there’s not sacks doesn’t mean they aren’t pressuring, and they aren’t really good rushers and they haven’t been playing well,” Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers said. “I watched the Sunday night game, and Tuck, there was a lot [of negative things] said about him, but then he goes out and has four [sacks] in a game. I know Tuck [since] going against him and Notre Dame in the Gator Bowl way back in ’02-’03, so he’s had a heck of a run ... but not just him. It’s a good defensive front. I really think it starts with those guys and their front and their ability to create pressure.”
Pierre-Paul, who has yet to have a performance anywhere near as good as Tuck’s this season, said he’s “hopeful” he can get back on the field after sitting home and watching the Washington game. Last week’s inactive status ended his streak of 59-consecutive games to start his career.
The former Pro Bowler has yet to practice this week, so it could be a longshot. But even if he’s on the sidelines, he thinks he can have an impact by helping out those who will play.
“When you’re hurt, you can play. When you’re injured, you can’t. But I still have to be there for my teammates some way. This injury is just something I’ve got to get past, keep on getting rehab on it and hopefully I’ll be back soon,” Pierre-Paul said. “Shutting it down is not in my category, otherwise I would have shut it down when I got the injury, which was the Oakland game [on Nov. 10]. That’s not an option for me. You never know what might happen ... but to shut it down [when] my team needs me badly, that’s just very selfish of me and I’m not a selfish player. I’ll do anything I can to get back on the field quicker.”
Should Pierre-Paul be unable to go, the Giants feel they still have enough to get after Rivers. Rookie defensive end Damontre Moore, who was rated as one of the best pure pass rushers in the draft, has gotten a crash course this week and is itching to make an impact. Fellow newcomer, veteran lineman Cullen Jenkins, had a sack last week and two in the previous game against the Cowboys, so he can also be a viable replacement.
Defensive coordinator Perry Fewell reasoned Moore’s progress has been “some good, some bad,” but is banking on more of the former, if he’s to entrust more playing time to the rookie.
“It’s good to see him get more reps. We’d love for him to get more experience, so he’s been taking more snaps this week,” Fewell said. “There’s a lot of things that we want him to improve on because he has a lot of potential as a player [but] I’d tell him that personally, not publicly. ... We’ll add on some more [responsibilities] to this particular game and try to increase it a little bit more as it goes along. We need him to be a complete football player.”
Big Blue notes ...
» The passing game isn’t the only thing Big Blue has stifled, as the running game has also been neutralized. The Giants are allowing opposing running backs to gain only 58.7 rushing yards per game on 3.1 yards per carry over the last nine games.
» Pierre-Paul said he won’t think about shutting himself down — yet — but added he won’t rush back until he knows he can be the JPP of old.
“I’m not going to play unless I’m going to be a factor and I know that I’m going to be able to protect myself. That’s the main key,” Pierre-Paul said. “I’m getting rehab. It has been frustrating just watching the guys play out there without me because as a football player you want to be out there to support the team.”
» Tight end Brandon Myers missed practice on Thursday, but said it will be a one-day hiatus.
“Tomorrow, I’ll be back full-go,” Myers said. “It’s unfortunate, but when the body says you’re a little sore, you’ve got to let it rest a little bit. I’ll be back tomorrow.”
Myers will be needed, as he’s coming off two of his best games of the season. He had three catches for 39 yards, including a 27-yard touchdown, against Dallas, and five receptions for 61 yards, including a 22-yard score, in the victory last Sunday at Washington.
» Running back Brandon Jacobs (knee) also didn’t practice.
» The three players who were limited were all cornerbacks: Trumaine McBride (groin), Terrell Thomas (knee) and Corey Webster (ankle). Head coach Tom Coughlin said McBride “worked 50 percent” and Webster is “working a little bit better.” If neither can go, look for Jayron Hosley to get the start for the second straight week.
Follow Giants beat writer Tony Williams on Twitter@TBone8.