With Osi out, Pierre-Paul seizes moment

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- While Osi Umenyiora haggled with the New York Giants over his contract and remained a spectator in practice, Jason Pierre-Paul took full advantage of the situation.

He received valuable first-team reps in Perry Fewell's defense and has been telling everyone that he will play even faster than he did last year, due to his grasp of Fewell's defense.

That's kind of like saying a Lamborghini can go even faster than it does already.

On Saturday night, the Giants lost their preseason opener 20-10 to the Carolina Panthers and rookie quarterback Cam Newton.

But Pierre-Paul gave the Giants something much more important than a preseason victory. He gave them a glimpse of what life could be like without Umenyiora, collecting two sacks and three tackles in a quarter of work.

And he did the damage against Carolina's two-time Pro Bowl left tackle Jordan Gross.

"He's very physical," head coach Tom Coughlin said of last year's first-round pick. "He had two sacks and just missed on another one. He's a penetrator. He's a force. He really enjoyed playing, and I thought he gave us a real spark."

When the Giants invested their 15th overall pick in last year's draft on Pierre-Paul, they figured it would take some time for him to develop.

The Giants knew the incredibly raw 6-foot-5 defensive end with the wing span of a construction crane needed schooling after playing just one season of major college football at South Florida.

But they drooled over Pierre-Paul's future after watching him become a force on special teams while registering 4.5 sacks as a rookie largely due to his physical talents.

This year, even without an offseason of training with the coaching staff due to the lockout, Pierre-Paul said he'd play even faster because he felt more comfortable with Fewell's defense.

JPP certainly did not disappoint in the first game of the preseason.

"I feel more comfortable because I know the calls," he said. "I'm not thinking about nothing before the call. I'm not really thinking a lot. I'm going straight to the ball."

The Giants jumped out to an early lead after Michael Boley picked off Jimmy Clausen and went 56 yards for a touchdown. On the next Panthers drive, Gross got away with a hold on Pierre-Paul on a second-down play. But on the next play, a third-and-5 on the Carolina 34, Pierre-Paul blew by Gross and put Clausen to the turf for a 9-yard loss. His second sack came on a second-and-6 at the Giants' 46, when he dropped Clausen for another 9-yard loss.

"The second one, he tried to cut me and I pumped-faked inside and went outside and made the sack," Pierre-Paul said.

Umenyiora is expected to return to practice perhaps as soon as Monday, after seeing a specialist about his knee, which has kept him out of practices since camp started.

Umenyiora still wants a raise on his contract, which has two years and just under $8 million total remaining. He very likely will return to the practice field with incentives added to his contract.

At that point, Pierre-Paul will likely move to the second team but still likely will be used in passing situations on the first team.

"I don't know really," Pierre-Paul said of what will happen once Umenyiora is back. "It is all up to the coaches. I am just going out there and whatever the coaches want, they want me to be on the second team or whatever, I got to do whatever for the team. I'd love for Osi to come back. That is more for the defensive line and the pressure."

The incentives that could be added to Umenyiora's contract likely will not be enough to keep the defensive end happy. Umenyiora wants to be paid like a top pass-rusher and his contract will become an issue again as the Giants could go through this all over again next offseason.

In the only glimpse that the public has gotten of Umenyiora in action during this camp, the pass-rusher looked fast and explosive during individual drills last week. So the idea of Umenyiora, Justin Tuck, Pierre-Paul and Mathias Kiwanuka all on the field at once should be terrifying for opposing teams.

But if something goes south with the Umenyiora situation, the Giants know they have a stud pass-rusher waiting in the wings and one who appears to be well ahead of schedule.

"It is very encouraging," Pierre-Paul said of his play against Gross. "But I still got more to learn on the defense. [Practicing with the first-team] was kind of efficient because it made me see where I was at. At the same time, it lets me know what I am doing and I learn from there."