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Jason Pierre-Paul has emerged as a leader for the defensive unit

Defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul of the Giants warms

Defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul of the Giants warms up before a game against the Arizona Cardinals at MetLife Stadium on Sept. 14, 2014 in East Rutherford, N.J. Credit: Getty Images / Ron Antonelli

Jason Pierre-Paul did not have a direct hand in any of the four interceptions the Giants produced against Washington last week. But he was the one who helped set them up.

During film study it was JPP who not only spotted quarterback Kirk Cousins' tendency to stare down his intended receivers -- a habit common to young passers -- but had the confidence to mention it to the defensive backs.

"That's something I picked up," the defensive end said. "I told my guys, 'Look, the dude is staring at everybody. Either you're going to break on the ball or not.' Sure enough he did and they broke on the ball."

It was further evidence in the evolution of Jason Pierre-Paul, who has gone from the spacey wunderkind of the defensive line relying only on his freakish athletic talents to a student of the game and a new leader for the entire unit.

Or, as Pierre-Paul puts it: "As you grow older, you figure [stuff] out."

Those who knew him when he first arrived with the Giants in 2010 are flabbergasted by what Pierre-Paul has become.

"That is pretty funny because it's not something we would have envisioned," joked Osi Umenyiora, now a Falcons defensive end and one of JPP's mentors during his early years. "He's the guy now. There's no [Justin] Tuck, there's no me, there's no [Michael] Strahan. It's him."

"I remember when he walked in the meeting room when people realized he had a lot of potential, how much explaining things took," Mathias Kiwanuka said. "Now you can see him pulling guys aside and doing the explaining. It's an awesome accomplishment for coach [Robert] Nunn, who basically lost all his hair to get that kid to the Pro Bowl. To see it come around full circle and to pay off like that . . . I think it's a testament to the confidence that the guys have in him."

For the first time in his career, Pierre-Paul's impact on the field goes beyond his statline. He still has a pretty good one, though, with 11/2 sacks, three tackles for a loss, three passes batted down and 22 tackles. As he approaches free agency at the end of this season, he'll have more than numbers and production to point to in negotiations.

Pierre-Paul downplayed his role as a leader. He said he's not much of a talker. But he did concede that earlier in his career he probably wouldn't have spoken up about the Kirk Cousins observation. Heck, he probably wouldn't have even noticed it.

"I wasn't paying attention to stuff like that," he said.

Now he is. And others are paying attention to that.

"He's definitely grown up," safety and captain Antrel Rolle said. "It's little things that I see a lot. He's grown up all the way around. He wants it more. He's definitely become a leader in this locker room. He's demanding it from everyone else . . . It can be something so simple but he's paying such close attention to detail with everyone, not just himself. That's a huge part of growth."

He also is sharing his accumulated wisdom with younger players, handing down tidbits to developing defensive linemen the way he was fed information from the mother birds in his career.

"I'm teaching Damontre [Moore] and [Johnathan] Hankins all the [stuff] I learned from way back then," Pierre-Paul said. "Hopefully they can help me win, get to another Super Bowl."

That's just what Umenyiora and Tuck used to say about him.

New York Sports