For most of Jason Pierre-Paul's career, he has relied on his physical abilities to make plays while his mental acumen was trying to catch up. Being relatively new to the sport, and with only a half-season of major college experience before the Giants drafted him in 2010, he was able to use his athleticism to overcome any lack of in-depth knowledge about techniques and details.
This year, though, it's the other way around. Coming off back surgery in the spring, Pierre-Paul is struggling with the one aspect of his game that had been his forte.
"It's more physical," Pierre-Paul said of what is holding him back through two weeks. "My body is not reacting to my mind."
It's not something that is unexpected. Pierre-Paul did not play at all in the preseason and only began practicing with the team about a week before the opener. Through two games he has one sack (leads the team, but that's more an indictment on everyone else) and six tackles.
"I didn't expect me to jump out and have a good game right away," Pierre-Paul said. "That's something, it takes time. From the get-go I knew right when I came off back surgery that it's not going to be old JPP, two sacks, three sacks. No. It's going to take time for me to get back in the gameplan, in game mode, and for the quarterbacks to actually fear me.
"I know I'm not my old self," he continued. "I like it because my back is feeling well, I'm healthy. I'm just trying to get into that physical part of the game. It's like you got a big -- -- caution sign on me, a big -- -- yellow sticker or whatever and you're just fearful that somebody will hit you. But at the end of the day you have to play."
The good news is that Pierre-Paul seems to sense himself making a leap. He was excited about his performance in Wednesday's practice.
"I'm getting better and better each day," he said. "That's all I can do. I can't force it. I do extra things to get better."
Still, it's been frustrating through the first two games.
"I'm not getting off the ball as quick and rushing the passer as quick," he said of watching film of himself. "I see myself stopping a lot. Stuff like that. I look at the film and I'm like: 'That's not me, I don't know what the heck I'm doing.' I turn on the film from a year ago, for example the Cowboys game. Each Cowboys game I've been a factor. I turn on the film from last year and then turn on the film from the first game we played [this season], it's totally different. You can see it. But like I say, there's no excuses. I just have to get my body right and get back on track."