The Giants will see an old friend Monday night at MetLife Stadium.
It may not, however, be a very friendly visit.
Not if Jason Pierre-Paul has his way.
Pierre-Paul, the 31-year-old pass-rushing demon who produced 58.5 sacks in his eight seasons with the Giants before being traded to the Buccaneers in 2018, told reporters on Friday that he plans to “destroy’’ his former team when they meet Monday night.
“I’m coming for their necks, and they know that,’’ Pierre-Paul said. “Jason Pierre-Paul ain’t going nowhere. I’m going to Monday Night Football and going to destroy the Giants.’’
Pierre-Paul has played his former team once — in 2018 at MetLife Stadium, where he had 1.5 sacks and seven tackles in a 38-35 shootout loss to Eli Manning and the Giants.
The Giants weren’t very good back then, and currently at 1-6, they aren’t very good right now either. Pierre-Paul, meanwhile, is basking in the rebirth of both his own career and that of the 5-2 Buccaneers, whose world has been rocked with Tom Brady at quarterback.
“I’m happy to play Daniel Jones,’’ Pierre-Paul said of the Giants’ second-year quarterback. “Eli’s not there no more, so I won’t have to pick him up and say, ‘Eli, man, you good?’ ’’
There, of course, was more.
“This game definitely means something special to me,” Pierre-Paul said. “You already know they made a mistake. When I left there, I got 12.5 [sacks] that year . And when I came back from a broken neck [last season], I got 8.5 that year. And, I’m having an amazing season this year.’’
Pierre-Paul’s presence Monday night will serve as an ugly reminder of how far the Giants have fallen since his departure — particularly in the pass rush.
While Pierre-Paul is on pace for 12.5 sacks this season and is playing on a team likely headed for the playoffs, the Giants are 10-29 since he was traded and ranked 31st in sacks in 2018 and 22nd in 2019, though they are tied for eighth this season, with 18.
Pierre-Paul is thriving in Todd Bowles’ No. 3-ranked defense and figures to present a major problem for Jones and a Giants offensive line that was disrupted this week by COVID-19, when starting guard Will Hernandez tested positive and will be out for the game.
“It’s not that I’m trying to show them they made a mistake,’’ he said.
Except he is … and has been since he was traded.
“It’s just the fact that I know that I wasn’t washed up or finished up,’’ Pierre-Paul said. “So, this [Monday], I have to show them. It’s my old team, and we’ve got to show them the new Tampa Bay Buccaneers.”
Facing a super-motivated Pierre-Paul is not good timing for a Giants offensive line that was disrupted on Thursday by the COVID-19 scare with most of the starters having to sit out practice as a protocol precaution until they tested negative and were cleared.
“He’s still a very effective player,” Giants offensive line coach Marc Colombo said of Pierre-Paul this week.
“He’s always been someone that’s been disruptive, both in the run game, affecting the quarterback in the passing game,’’ Giants offensive coordinator Jason Garrett said Friday. “[He’s] always one of those guys when you’re breaking the huddle, you’re saying, ‘Where’s number 90?’ ’’
The mere presence of No. 90 will serve as painful reminder to the Giants of a transaction gone bad.
General manager Dave Gettleman traded him to the Bucs in exchange for a 2018 third-round pick (No. 69) and they swapped fourth-round picks, dropping from No. 102 to No. 108.
Gettleman drafted defensive tackle B.J. Hill and quarterback Kyle Lauletta with the those picks. Hill has become nothing more than a part-time player who has 7.5 sacks in 39 games. Lauletta was cut after one season.
Gettleman, in the meantime, has not come close to replacing Pierre-Paul’s pass rushing production.
With Markus Golden, the Giants’ only pass-rushing threat the past two seasons, having been recently traded, they’ll be trying to manufacture pressure on Brady with Kyler Fackrell, Cam Brown (2020 sixth-round pick), Trent Harris (signed to the practice squad two weeks ago) and Jabaal Sheard (signed off the Jaguars practice squad last week) at outside linebacker.
So, Giants fans, when you see No. 90 on Monday night, look away.
Giants defensive coordinator Patrick Graham, who was Pierre-Paul’s position coach in 2016-17, won’t be able to, because he’s still in awe of his former player, for whom he still has admiration.
“He’s a different human being walking among us,’’ Graham said Friday. “His skill level [has] improved as he’s gotten older. In terms of a person … he was a guy who was funny, kept the room light. It was a pleasure to be around him.’’
Unfortunately for Graham and the Giants, the pleasure may be all Pierre-Paul’s on Monday night.