ELI MANNING, JPP NAMED TO PRO BOWL TEAM, CRUZ AND SNEE 2ND ALTERNATES
"Five years ago, Jason Pierre-Paul
was a senior in high school, learning how to play football for the first time.
Now he's got a spot on the NFC's 2012 Pro Bowl team.
Pierre-Paul, the Giants' sensational second-year defensive end, was named to
the NFC team on Tuesday night, along with Giants quarterback Eli
Manning. They were the lone representatives of the team that will compete
for the NFC East championship on Sunday night.
The Giants also had two
second-alternates - receiver Victor Cruz and guard
JETS REVIS, MANGOLD, FERGUSON MAKE AFC PRO BOWL SQUAD
Manning seemed destined for his second Pro Bowl (his first was in 2008) all
season. He's led the Giants back from fourth-quarter deficits five times and
he's already set a new franchise record with 4,587 passing
Pierre-Paul put on a Pro Bowl-worthy performance this season, too,
with 15-1/2 sacks so far. But his candidacy was always a bit of a longshot
because - since he didn't begin the season as a starter - his name wasn't on the
ballot for fans.
Still, he got enough votes from coaches and players, whose votes counted for
two-thirds of the process.
"It means a lot," Pierre-Paul said. "I don't really understand the whole Pro
Bowl thing, but it means a lot. It means I'm doing good."
He's doing great, considering he was drafted 15th overall in 2010 after just
one season of major college football (South Florida). He showed flashes of
brilliance as a rookie, including two two-sack games, but his total of 4-1/2
sacks showed he was a work in progress.
He couldn't afford to be that this year with injuries battering the Giants'
defensive line. Justin Tuck missed four
games with an array of ailments, and Osi Umenyiora has
missed half the season with knee and ankle problems. As a result, Pierre-Paul
has started 11 times in 15 games, has had more than one sack five times, and so
far has the most sacks by a Giant since Michael Strahan had
18-1/2 in 2003.
"With Tuck and Osi being out, it gave me a chance to show my coaches that I
can perform at a high level, even though they didn't expect me to have a
breakout season," Pierre-Paul said. "Just feel the joy right now. I'm having a
good feeling even though I knew I could do it all along. I'm happy because
everybody sees it now. They know that I am one of the key players that the
Giants have on their team."
The nation got a sense of that the last time the Giants played the Cowboys,
when Pierre-Paul had a dominant performance that included a block of the
potential game-tying field goal that preserved the Giants' 37-34 win. If that
was a surprise to everyone, well maybe it shouldn't have been. Pierre-Paul
always seemed to know this was the kind of season he would have.
"Honestly, I told my best friend, 'This year I'm going to do way better than
I did last year because I know what I'm going into, I know what to expect,'"
Pierre-Paul said. "Last year, I didn't know what to expect and I didn't know too
much of the playbook. This year I knew that everyone was starting from scratch
again and I knew that I was going to have a breakout season this year. Nobody
else did, but I told my best friend and he was like, 'Yeah, I believe you.' And
sure enough, I did."
Manning has had similar success backing up his words after famously saying in
a preseason radio interview that he believed he was a "top 5" quarterback on the
same level as the great Tom Brady.
All Manning has done since is play like someone who for a while was at least
on the fringe of being considered for MVP.
"I think I have thrown the ball well, but again, I think the receivers have
done a good job," Manning said. "We had some guys step up, so a lot of credit
goes to them. I feel like I improved on some things. There are still some
improvements to be made, and obviously my whole mindset is the team having
success and us winning games.
"At this point right now we have a chance to make it to the playoffs and win
this last game versus Dallas. That's the mindset right now. I'm not losing
focus. I'm not going to be planning any reservations in Hawaii right now. I'm
trying to get ready for Dallas and get ready to play that game."