Pierre-Paul made an immediate impact that year and has continued success since. He ended the Bucs’ 13-season drought of pass rushers without double-digit sacks and he has the most sacks out of any Buccaneer over the last three seasons. JPP is even tied for the eighth-most sacks in the NFL over that same span.
But it hasn’t been easy for JPP. 2021, should be different, however.
A litany of injuries have kept the Bucs back from seeing the real Pierre-Paul
Pierre-Paul’s car wreck in 2019 and his knee issues in 2020 are well-documented, but how many people knew that he played on not just one, but two, sprained MCLs in 2018?
Bruce Arians revealed that nugget of information after Tuesday’s practice.
“I mean, the stories are legendary. He played with two sprained MCLs the year before I got here,” Arians said when asked about Pierre-Paul’s health in 2020. “I don’t think he’s been truly healthy until now since we’ve been here together, and he never stops. He’s always going full-speed.”
That’s pretty wild to think about. So, to run down the timeline of JPP’s injuries, we have:
- Two sprained MCLs in 2018
- A broken neck prior to 2019 that he came back from by Week 8
- Knee issues that held him to around “70 percent” throughout 2020
- Offseason knee surgery in 2021
Many would cringe -as well as have some major hesitation in regard to JPP’s future- when looking at that list. But for the Bucs and Pierre-Paul, it’s just something they have to work through. And so far, they have.
“He’s a great example for everybody else on what it’s like to be a pro,” said Arians. “You’re never going to feel great. Hopefully you feel great in the first game; after that, you’re not going to feel great anymore, but you’ve still got to play.”
Pierre-Paul’s health -as well as his surrounding cast- have him ready to take off in 2021
As Arians noted, 2021 represents the 11-year veteran’s healthiest season since he and Arians have been together. When you add that in with the presence of Shaquil Barrett, Vita Vea, Ndamukong Suh, Will Gholston, Devin White, and Lavonte David making up the remaining front seven, then you can see why the Bucs are excited about what Pierre-Paul can do in 2021.
And don’t forget about first-round rookie Joe Tryon. His versatility will allow Todd Bowles to put JPP everywhere when it comes to the defensive alignments. We saw some of that last year with JPP, especially when he dropped into coverage. Pierre-Paul recorded two interceptions -he should’ve had three- in 2020, which is a remarkable feat for what he does in terms of job responsibilities.
“Man, he’s freaky – he’s freaky, he’s the real deal,” Tryon recently said during a post-practice interview. “And he’s smart too, really smart.”
When you combine all of that with Bowles’ heavy pressure scheme (the Bucs are top-5 in blitz percentage over the last two years), then everything is set up for JPP to have his biggest/best season as a Buc.
As a matter of fact, it could be the biggest season of his career, yet.