On Tuesday, the news surfaced that Jason Pierre-Paul potentially suffered a season-ending neck injury in a recent car accident.
The extent of the injury is a fractured vertebrae in his neck. Since the news broke, other reports have surfaced that aren’t so dire. Some have estimated a 5-6 month recovery if surgery is required, which would set up a return somewhere around November.
One report has been especially optimistic. According to Tom Pelissero of the NFL Network, there is a thought that the vertebrae could heal on its own and that Pierre-Paul would be ready to play by Week One.
Obviously, JPP and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are seeking other opinions, even to the extent where he has sent scans of the injury to “several other” doctors, per Pelissero.
The latest on Jason Pierre-Paul from @NFLTotalAccess: Several doctors will review his scans in the coming days. Concern is it’s a fractured vertebrae in his neck. If surgery is required, he’d face a 5-6 month recovery. But no decisions yet on how to proceed. @nflnetwork pic.twitter.com/76QjsG8qnu— Tom Pelissero (@TomPelissero) May 7, 2019
Regardless of the situation, Tampa Bay’s 2018 sack leader will likely miss time. After failing to draft an edge rusher, the Bucs will have to find a way to offset another hole on the roster.
Fortunately for them, they may already have the answer in Shaquil Barrett and Noah Spence.
Now don’t get me wrong, both players are nowhere near the player that Pierre-Paul has proven to be. But with the right coaching and setup, they may be able to help balance the loss.
There’s no other way to cut it: both Spence and Barrett have a giant opportunity to make a name for themselves on this team.
For Spence, it would be especially relieving to see him make an impact after injuries basically cost him the last year and a half. He is extremely talented, but hasn’t put it all together up to this point.
A shoulder injury derailed any momentum from a solid rookie campaign and no one really knows what was going on with Spence in 2018. He just simply didn’t play.
JPP’s injury could be his launching point. It could Barrett’s as well.
While he’s mostly served as a role player, Barrett has shown flashes that he can play. He also comes with a huge chip on his shoulder after going undrafted out of Colorado State.
Barrett has been able to amass 14 sacks and 25 TFLs over the past four years. According to Pro Football Focus, he was on defensive side of the field for just 276 snaps in 2017, but still managed to sack the quarterback three times.
That comes out to an average of one sack every 92 snaps. Pierre-Paul played 933 snaps and took the quarterback down 12.5 times in 2018 - which would be about a sack every 75 snaps. Barrett also managed one pressure every 46 snaps compared to one pressure every 37 snaps for JPP.
It’s a dip in production, but it may not be as much a drop-off as originally thought.
Hopefully this is all for naught and Pierre-Paul is ready to go by Week One. Not only would the Bucs keep their defensive leader, but it would help ease a lot of growing pains for the new players - and former ones - that are learning Todd Bowles’ system.
That’s nowhere close to a guarantee given the Bucs’ recent history of bad luck, but hope springs eternal - especially in the NFL.
And here’s to hoping the Bucs can find an answer to this potential dilemma.