- Associated Press - Thursday, December 2, 2010

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) - When the New York Giants grabbed Jason Pierre-Paul in the first round of the draft, general manager Jerry Reese said the defensive end had the biggest upside of any player in the draft.

The so-called “Freak” out of South Florida had size, speed, strength and determination. The only question was how long would it take him to put it all together?

The answer seemingly is less than a season.

“A guy like that is going to be a monster,” safety Antrel Rolle said Thursday after the Giants (7-4) practiced for Sunday’s game against the Washington Redskins (5-6). “Once he understands the game, the sky is the limit.”

After being spoon-fed for the first half of the season, Pierre-Paul is showing signs that he totally understands coordinator Perry Fewell’s defensive package.

The biggest sign came this past weekend when Pierre-Paul recorded a pair of strip sacks against Jacksonville quarterback David Garrard in a 24-20 victory. The sacks were his first in the league.

“I’ve been close for a while,” said Pierre-Paul, whose playing time has increased from about six plays at the start of the season to about 30. “Last week I got two, and it felt good, to get sacks and to know I can do it.”

Pierre-Paul is doing more than suddenly getting sacks. His run defense is just as strong.

“We have a lot of defenses in and it’s very difficult for a young player to recall and remember all that defense,” Fewell said. “He’s been able to do that, and now he’s capitalizing and he’s able to make some plays.”

Defensive end Justin Tuck said Pierre-Paul also is coming on when rookies tend to hit the wall.

“It looks like he has busted through that and he is playing well, and not just because he had two sacks last week,” Tuck said. “He has picked up the defense better. He is more attentive in meetings. He is starting to let his athletic ability take over. He is not thinking as much. Earlier in the year, it was bogging him down how much defense we had in. He has grasped a hold of that and it has allowed him to go fly around.”

Offensive tackle Kareem McKenzie said Pierre-Paul reminds him of a young John Abraham from his days with the Jets.

Defensive end Osi Umenyiora thinks the 21-year-old Pierre-Paul has the makings of another DeMarcus Ware of the Cowboys, except he is bigger.

“He’s an outstanding football player,” Umenyiora said. “He has all the talent in the world, very athletic. He’s coming along, and he’s going to be a great one.”

Pierre-Paul said the adjustment from the college level to the pros hasn’t been a major one. Things felt fast when he arrived at training camp. But now? Not so much.

The rookie, who played just one season with the Bulls of the Big East, said defensive end Mathias Kiwanuka took him under his wing until suffering a disk injury that sidelined him for the season. Since then, everyone has worked with him.

“Everyone has been telling me what it is and what it isn’t, and they are expecting me to step up real fast,” Pierre-Paul said. “All the guys have been incredible teaching me stuff.”

The most surprising aspect of Pierre-Paul’s game is his play on special teams. His eight tackles are second to Dave Tollefson.

Place-kicker Lawrence Tynes said Pierre-Paul surprised people the first month of the season, noting he is as fast as anyone on the coverage teams … and bigger and stronger, too.

“Since then, he has been double- and triple-teamed,” Tynes said. “He is taking up two blockers and sometimes, three. For a first-round pick, it says a lot about him to go out there and play on those teams. He likes to hit.”

Pierre-Paul said the guys on special teams love to compete to see who can get the first hit.

“We have competitions on special teams,” he said. “We’re all competitive. We’re telling each other: ‘I’m going to get down there before you.’ We make it all a competition.”

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