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Spagnuolo downplays impact JPP can have on Giants defense

As much as he's missed, Jason Pierre-Paul can't single-handedly fix Big Blue's defensive ails.Julio Cortez/AP

As much as he’s missed, Jason Pierre-Paul can’t single-handedly fix Big Blue’s defensive ails.

Steve Spagnuolo’s NFL-worst defense got torched to the tune of 52 points and 608 yards on Sunday in New Orleans. The Giants have a league-low nine sacks and need help any way they can get it, and Spagunolo hopes Jason Pierre-Paul can provide a boost.

But despite Pierre-Paul believing he’s “the same JPP” even though he’s missing a finger, missed all of training camp and has a limited number of practices under his belt, Spanguolo made it clear that nobody can expect Pierre-Paul to be the savior of his sad-sack defense.

“I think that’s a lot to ask,” Spagnuolo said Thursday. “Look, defensive football is a team game, it’s 11 guys, it’s not one guy. I wouldn’t put that on a guy.”

While fans winced as Drew Brees threw touchdown after touchdown, seven in all on Sunday, the prospect of Pierre-Paul being anything close to his old self and helping a sluggish pass rush provided a glimmer of hope. Spagnuolo is tempering expectations.

“To think he’s just going to go out there and be the JPP that everybody hopes and wants, I don’t know if that’s fair,” he said. “But we’ll see.”

There’s still no official word on whether or not Pierre-Paul will make his season debut on Sunday against the Buccaneers, but he practiced again on Thursday and Spagnuolo is “optimistic and hopeful” the two-time Pro Bowler will be available in Tampa.

Even if Pierre-Paul does play, it seems he’d be a situational pass-rusher at best given the amount of time he’s missed.

“He’s got a long way to go,” Spagnuolo said of Pierre-Paul. “It’s hard to take that much time off and be at the level that you think he can play.”

Both Spagnuolo and Tom Coughlin have liked what he’s seen from Pierre-Paul thus far in practice. There was one play that stood out to Spagnuolo as he watched film of Thursday’s practice where Pierre-Paul got a great jump off the snap.

Giants defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo wants expectations lowered for Jason Pierre-Paul.Julio Cortez/AP

Giants defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo wants expectations lowered for Jason Pierre-Paul.

“He’s off the ball pretty good,” Spagnuolo said. “His takeoff looks real good, too.”

Pierre-Paul’s teammates are looking forward to seeing what he can do. Odell Beckham Jr. thinks the emotion of everything Pierre-Paul’s been through going back to his fireworks accident, the ensuing surgeries and rehab will all play out on the field and spur him to a big performance.

“A guy who’s been through so much, I only expect him to come out and have 20 sacks, something like that,” Beckham said. “I’m just expecting so much from him just because I know where his mindset is, and I know what he’s overcoming. I think he’s still going to be alright, for sure.”

What wasn’t alright was the Giants’ defensive performance on Sunday. Cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie could barely stand to watch the film this week of his group’s outing in New Orleans.

“I went to the bathroom,” he said. “It’s hard. It’s real hard. Especially when so much is self-inflicted. Eight games in, you want to have your communication and everything down pat. You’ve just got to keep going and get it right.”

Spagnuolo tipped his cap to Drew Brees but also offered perhaps the understatement of the year regarding Sunday’s debacle. “We did not play our best football and that’s what’s probably the most disappointing.”

It’s not yet clear if Pierre-Paul will wear a special glove on his mangled right hand or a club-type wrap similar to what he was donning on Thursday. Either way, the anticipation for his return is reaching its apex.

“He’s anxious,” Spagnuolo said. “I think we’re all anxious.”

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