Terrell Thomas can usually tell what kind of game Jason Pierre-Paul will have based not so much on how he practices, but how much he talks.
The more he yaps, the better he plays.
"When JPP talks, JPP produces," the Giants' sixth-year cornerback said of his teammate. "So I hope he keeps talking. I hope we get some good quotes out of him, because when he says he's going to do something, he's going to do it."
And if he's quiet?
"It means he's not happy with his play," Thomas said.
Good news: The Giants' defensive end was talking plenty this week in advance of Sunday's game with the Cowboys. A win, and they pull even with Dallas after an 0-6 start. And if Pierre-Paul makes plays similar to the one he made last Sunday against the Packers, when he sealed the outcome with a 24-yard interception return for a touchdown, then the Giants just might be looking at a five-game winning streak and continued hope for a playoff run.
"He's getting healthier, he's getting more confident," Thomas said of Pierre-Paul. "He's our best defensive player, so when he's playing at a high level, it makes us that much better."
The Giants will need Pierre-Paul to be at his best because the defense faces a major step up in competition at quarterback: Tony Romo, Robert Griffin 3 twice, Philip Rivers, Russell Wilson and Matthew Stafford.
Time for Pierre-Paul to play up to the standards he set in 2011, when he was the centerpiece of the Giants' Super Bowl winning defense. He hasn't been the same since.
But after recovering from off-season back surgery, he seems to be getting better each week, and despite a strained shoulder, looked more like the All Pro he blossomed into two years ago.
The swagger is back, and so is the big talk.
It's a stunning improvement from Week 1 in Dallas, when Pierre-Paul was clearly moving slower than we're used to seeing. He couldn't get the kind of leverage at the point of attack that makes him virtually unstoppable when he's on his game. Even he was shocked at how ineffective he was back then.
"My first game back from back surgery wasn't a very good game," he said. "Watching film, I still get sick because I'm basically loafing all around the field, and that ain't me. This week, whoever lines up in front of me is gonna get it."
No worries, Terrell. JPP is talking. He even referred to Sunday's game as "a Super Bowl to us. It's not [just] a playoff game. We need it badly. We got to get it."
When Pierre-Paul is on his game, he he's virtually unstoppable. He has the ability to carry a defense like few others, occasionally drawing comparisons to Lawrence Taylor, the greatest defensive player in NFL history as far as I'm concerned.
But Pierre-Paul isn't at Taylor's level. Pierre-Paul is immensely talented and probably the best pure athlete on the team, and he can flash in a game. But then there are long stretches when he's a non-factor.
Last year, he was clearly agitated when opposing offenses double-teamed him and he didn't respond well to the increased challenge. His improved play in recent weeks will no doubt demand more attention by opponents, so he needs to fight through it and still maintain his effectiveness.
If he does, there's all the more reason to think the Giants' defense can benefit. And if Pierre-Paul can summon the kind of performance that have typified his games against the Cowboys, the winning streak could extend to five.
Consider: In five games against Dallas he has five sacks, a 28-yard interception return for touchdown (last season) and a forced fumble. His blocked field goal in 2011 may have saved the Giants' season.
"I expect myself to be all over the field, like I always show up against [the Cowboys] for the four years I've been here," he said. "I expect myself to be out there making plays and helping my team get a win. It's not a secret. They know. They're coming here, and we want to give them our best game."
Pierre-Paul needs to give the Cowboys his best game. Same with the rest of the Giants' opponents on a decidedly more difficult schedule that lies ahead. As Tom Coughlin likes to say, big players play big in big games. It's especially true for Pierre-Paul.