Jason Pierre-Paul might be the most puzzling piece on the winless Giants' much-maligned defense.
Pierre-Paul was supposed to be their playmaker, their catalyst. When opposing centers snapped the ball, many expected "JPP" to either swallow up running backs or leap over linemen for game-changing sacks.
And why not? Pierre-Paul was freakish in how he dominated games in his first two seasons, only to struggle last year because of a back injury.
When Pierre-Paul had disk surgery in June, the assumption was he would dominate games once again when he returned. When It didn't happen in the season opener against Dallas, many felt it was because he missed training camp.
Heading into Week 5 against the Eagles (1-3) at MetLife Stadium, the Giants' wait for JPP continues. He has 12 total tackles, one sack and he's been pushed around more than he has pushed.
Pierre-Paul, who had 16 1/2 sacks in his second season, insists he's not wondering where the dominant JPP went.
"You could sit here and dwell on the past," said the 24-year-old who had a slight MLC injury last week. "You just got to look toward the future. That's what I'm looking toward. Yeah, I'm just coming off back surgery. Whatever. That was 16, 17 weeks ago. Who cares? I got to get back to my old self. And I'm trying very hard."
Coach Tom Coughlin said Pierre-Paul is work hard to catch up.
"You've got to give him time to work into it," Coughlin said Thursday. "He's really tried to take a lot of practice and he's been doing this for over two weeks where he's taking more than the normal number of reps just trying to catch up with exactly what you're saying. We were fortunate to get him back when we did, realizing he had no training camp, nothing. We tried to hold back on his reps and then we brought him along, and currently he's pretty much taken everything he can take trying to catch up."
Defensive coordinator Perry Fewell said opponents are still doubling Pierre-Paul. He could not break down the number of times the Giants' 2010 first-round pick faces one opponent or multiple players.
"I think everybody's expectation was so high that he could come back and be Superman — I'll use that term, OK," Fewell said. "But obviously a player has to work himself back into shape. He has to work himself back into football mentality and he has to keep working at his craft for his skills to rise to the top level."
Fewell thinks Pierre-Paul is getting there. The Eagles will certainly give him chances. Michael Vick has been sacked 14 times this season and been hit a lot more than that.
"I'm trying to get better every day," Pierre-Paul said. "I wish I didn't have surgery, but I had to do it. I'm getting better every day. Everybody says I'm improving and that' the thing. My conditioning is on point, so it's just getting back to that football mode. I'm pretty slow off the ball as I watch on film. I've got to correct that. I do a great job of playing the run. I think it's just getting off the ball and being a great pass rusher again."
Veteran defensive tackle Cullen Jenkins said because a player puts on a uniform doesn't mean he is 100 percent.
"I think getting cleared to play just means that they think you'll make it out without any further injuries, without making it worse or anything serious," Jenkins said. "Just because you're cleared to play doesn't mean that you're going to be 100 percent by any stretch. You go out there, you fight, you tough it out and you try to help the team."
That's what Pierre-Paul is trying to do now.