EAST RUTHERFORD, New Jersey — The New York Giants' revamped defense is going to surprise people this season, even without injured star defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul, general manager Jerry Reese said Sunday.
Speaking to reporters for the first time since players reported, Reese refused to say much about Pierre-Paul, whose status for the season is in question after injuring his right hand in a fireworks incident on July 4 in Florida.
"I am going to say this, I wish Jason nothing but the best," Reese said. "This is a traumatic situation. It was an accident. Plenty of people have opinions about it. My heart goes out to him.
"For a young man to have a traumatic event like that in his life is life-changing for him. I hope and pray for the best for him, that's what I can say about that."
There is little else Reese could say about the incident.
The Giants have not been allowed to examine Pierre-Paul and their contact with the 26-year-old whom they designated a franchise player earlier this year also has been limited. They have no idea when he will be ready to play this season.
That's tough for a defense that struggled last season, finishing 29th in the league overall and 30th against the run.
The performance in a 6-10 season led to the firing of defensive coordinator Perry Fewell and the re-hiring of Steve Spagnuolo, who was the defensive architect of the Giants' Super Bowl win over the Patriots in February 2008.
Pierre-Paul was to have been the cornerstone of the defense. He had 12½ sacks last season and clearly was the most talented player on the unit. His franchise status guaranteed him a $14.8 million contract this season and the Giants had offered a long-term deal before he was hurt.
Pierre-Paul has not signed his contract tender and the Giants have taken the long-term deal off the table for now.
In the interim, the defensive end positons are being manned by Robert Ayers, George Selvie, Kerry Wynn, Cullen Jenkins and rookie Owamagbe Odighizuwa, five players who Reese said are being given a chance to step out of the shadows.
"I think we'll be really good defensively," Reese said. "I think we're going to surprise people. I think we have five defensive ends that we feel like can play and play at a high level at that position. I do think our defense is going to be a better unit than it was last year. I'm excited to see them out there playing."
Reese refused to say any more about Pierre-Paul, cutting the conversation short when asked if he might play this season.
"I'm not going to say anything else about the Jason situation guys," he said. "There's plenty of people (who) already talked about it, and everybody's got an opinion about it. You can still form your own opinion about it, but that's my opinion about it."
Reese said he liked the Giants' roster heading into training camp, noting that there is plenty of competition at most positions. He believes the Giants can end their three-year playoff drought.
"Our expectation is always high here," Reese said. "Again, we want to go out there and compete for the division and get a chance to get in the tournament."
The strength of the team is the offense with quarterback Eli Manning throwing to a deep group of receivers that includes Odell Beckham Jr., Victor Cruz, who is coming off a second knee injury, and Rueben Randle. Manning also has a third-down back with the signing of Shane Vereen.
"I expect our offense to score points," Reese said. "If you don't score 28 points in this league, it's hard to win. Those 14-10 games, there are not a lot of those games left around the National Football League in light of how the rules favor the offense mostly, how the rules are made now. So you have to score points. You have to take advantage of that, of the rules."
While there are concerns about the juggled offensive line and depth at tackle, Reese isn't worried. He believes that left tackle Will Beatty, who tore a pectoral muscle in the offseason, may be ready to play by October. He added that guard Justin Pugh could always be switched back to tackle if the need arose.
Reese is confident that Beckham, the NFL's offensive rookie of the year in 2014, will play well again.
"I think Odell just has to be himself," Reese said. "I don't think there's any challenge. Obviously, he's gifted. I think he just has to let the game come to him and not try to force things because he's going to make plays."