Both are first-round picks who stumbled out of the gate in similar 4-3 defenses. And both have recently emerged as top-tier defensive ends. Today, we compare Jason Pierre-Paul of the Giants to Chris Long of the Rams.

Who would you rather have on your team?

Chris Long
Age: 26
Experience: 4th season
Career stats: 60 games, 29.5 sacks, 140 tackles, 6 forced fumbles
2011 stats: 12 games, 12 sacks, 28 tackles, 1 forced fumble

OR

Jason Pierre-Paul
Age: 22
Experience: 2nd season
Career stats: 28 games, 15 sacks, 83 tackles, 3 forced fumbles
2011 stats: 12 games, 10.5 sacks, 53 tackles, 1 forced fumble

Long’s numbers are a tad distorted after he managed just nine sacks in his first 32 games. Since then, he’s had 20.5 in only 28. Then again, Pierre-Paul had just 4.5 in his rookie campaign — it’s not his fault he became acclimated faster and avoided a sophomore slump.

Overall, the numbers gently favor Pierre-Paul, especially considering his versatility as a guy who can spread out and make tackles. A good example of this came two weeks ago when he made a remarkable play to stop the Saints on a fake field goal attempt. Not many defensive ends would make that kind of play. He can stand up and chip in as a pass defender, too, and is simply one hell of an athlete.

That said, Long is probably a better overall run defender, and his sack numbers have clearly been better thus far. To boot, a recent Pro Football Focus study concluded that, based on sacks and pressures per rush, Long is the fifth-best pass rusher in the league, while Pierre-Paul didn’t make the top 25 despite his big sack total. In fact, in 2011, no player has had more combined sacks, hits and hurries than Long.

Gagnon’s take: I wouldn’t normally gamble on upside over proven production, but Pierre-Paul is already a double-digit sack man at the age of 22. Can’t ignore that — I’ll take the four-year advantage and the more athletic player.

Sean Tomlinson’s take: I agree, as it feels like Pierre-Paul is just beginning to tap into that upside, while Long is slowly reaching his ceiling. That said, based on sack numbers alone it’s difficult to compare the pure pass-rushing skills of these two players, because Pierre-Paul typically receives more help elsewhere on the Giants’ front seven than Long does in St. Louis.

So, who would you rather?

Last week’s Would You Rather: Jay Cutler or John Abraham or Lee Evans in the famous namesake edition

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