EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) — Football has not been any fun for Jason Pierre-Paul this season.
Pierre-Paul has gone from All-Pro to all frowns. The sacks aren’t coming: Pierre-Paul has just 1 1-2 in four games in 2012 after getting 16 1-2 a year ago, especially terrorizing opposing passers down the stretch and into the playoffs as the Giants won the Super Bowl.
“Last year, I was running around like a big kid,” Pierre-Paul said Thursday.
And this year?
“I have to look into the mirror and say to myself, ‘I can do better.’ Each year, you’ve got to get better,” said the third-year pro. “I’ve just got to go out there and have fun.”
Pierre-Paul promises he will enjoy Sunday’s game against Cleveland. If he can take down rookie quarterback Brandon Weeden a few times and help bottle up another rookie, running back Trent Richardson, JPP might be right.
It’s not in the effort, either, he insists.
“You know if you are going hard on all these plays,” he said. “I do. But I say to myself that I can go a little harder. I want to go a little bit harder.”
The Giants’ dynamic pass rush has not materialized as some might expect in their 2-2 start. They do have eight sacks, but they have also struggled to contain the likes of Cam Newton and Michael Vick — even Tony Romo in the opener.
Not having an overpowering pass rush is especially damaging with so many injuries in the secondary, where just about everyone is banged up. That means fewer coverage sacks because receivers get open quicker against the substitutes.
Plus, opponents know they must place a high priority on protecting their quarterbacks, so they might keep a tight end in to block more often, or use maximum protection with fewer receivers in patterns.
“Sometimes we get a surprise here and there with a particular thing they come up with,” defensive coordinator Perry Fewell said. “Sometimes you just have to whip somebody’s butt.”
Justin Tuck agrees with Pierre-Paul’s assessment, but can’t pinpoint the reason things haven’t been as enjoyable.
“I think you just keep pounding the rock,” the leader of the defensive line said. “It’s my experience that sacks and quarterback hits come in bunches. And you also can have the best pass rush … and not get the sack.
“I’m not having as much fun, either. We’re not playing up to the high level of expectations we have around here. We haven’t stepped up to the level we want to play at, and that’s why it isn’t much fun.”
Although Fewell’s defensive schemes are systematic, it often appeared last season that Pierre-Paul was running wild. Actually, he was beating blockers so frequently that he was doing exactly what the job called for even if he seemed to be playing with reckless abandon.
This year, he seems more tame because he isn’t causing havoc in opposing backfields on every other snap. He believes the entire defensive line has been that way.
“The sacks are going to come. On our team, we should already have more sacks,” Pierre-Paul said. “You never know when they will come. This is Week 5 and they might come.
“I wouldn’t say it’s not fun, but I am not having the fun I am used to. I’ve got to go out and be happy like a kid, have the energy I had last year. And I see that with the other guys who have to find that level of fun.”
NOTES: WR Hakeem Nicks (left foot and knee) is out for Sunday. Fellow WR Ramses Barden (concussion) is unlikely to play. … Also not participating in practice were LB Michael Boley (hip), S Antrel Rolle (left knee), S Kenny Phillips (right knee) and CB Corey Webster (right hand, hamstring). Rolle and Webster both said they will be available against the Browns.
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Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.