EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Seven games into a disappointing season, New York Giants defensive catalyst Jason Pierre-Paul is getting the feeling he's back.
The former Pro Bowl defensive end probably had his best game of the season Monday night in the Giants' 23-7 win over the Minnesota Vikings.
Pierre-Paul's statistics weren't very impressive. He had two tackles, two quarterback hurries and defended a pass as the Giants (1-6) ended their worst start since 1976.
What the numbers don't show was that the 24-year-old, who had back surgery in June, was in the backfield more than he has been all season. By his count, he was near quarterback Josh Freeman nine times and had a chance for five sacks, four more than he has this season.
"I wasn't expecting myself to come out and be Superman," Pierre-Paul said after practice on Thursday. "That's something that is ridiculous if anyone thought that would be possible. I am (being) me and all the players see I trying to get back to my regular state. That's all that counts."
Pierre-Paul readily admits he is not the same player who had a breakout season in 2011, recording 16 1/2 sacks. All he has to do is look at the videotapes of the games the past two seasons to know that. He had 6 1/2 sacks last season playing in back pain and he has struggled coming off surgery to repair a disk. He missed all of training camp and the preseason and wasn't prepared for the season, even though he has not missed a game.
The biggest difference for Pierre-Paul is his strength. It's just not the same and he feels it might get back to normal until next season.
"The way I rush the passer. I feel like I'm catching a lot, I'm catching my opponents a lot," the 2010 first-round pick said. "I'm not being a threat to them how I used to be. And that's basically it, turning the corner how I used to turn the corner."
Defensive co-ordinator Perry Fewell said Pierre-Paul is pressing to get back to the way he played in 2011, and he is not there yet. His approach as a coach has been to be patient, knowing each game back gets him closer to the goal.
"The biggest thing for us is we believe in him, and he has to believe in himself," Fewell said.
Fewell got some laughs when asked about his expectation of JPP this season.
"I always expect Superman out of him," Fewell said. "We think of him so highly, and he does so many amazing things that when he walks on the practice field, you smile. It's probably unfair to him because the expectations are for him to be Superman. He is human."
Fewell refuses to put any limitations on No. 90, adding that he could have a breakout game against Michael Vick and the Philadelphia Eagles this weekend, all the talk about his season will be forgotten.
"I think he got a little better the other night," coach Tom Coughlin said. "I'm hoping that it continues. It's still not where we want him to be, but I thought I saw some things that were a sign in the right direction."
Pierre-Paul has no regrets about having the surgery. If it wasn't done this year it would have been done down the road. Right now, his focus is on improving. He also wouldn't mind seeing his sack total move past one.
"You never know," he said. "That breakout game might come. I missed the quarterback about five times last week. At the end of the day almost doesn't count. From the beginning of the season, I feel like I am getting close. When I see that one sack (though) I am very happy I got one. I could have no sacks. It's just nice to have one sack and I want to get another."