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17 Nov 2017

Word of Muth: Goodbye, New York

by Ben Muth

This past Sunday, the Giants lost to the previously winless 49ers in what has to be seen as the low point of their season so far. At 1-8, New York's season is over in any meaningful fashion, and they will be left to play out the string. I expected the game to be ugly to rewatch on tape, but because I only have to watch New York's offense, it was actually pretty easy. In fact, I thought it was pretty clearly the best I had seen them play this year.

This column is going to focus on the offensive line, but before we get into that I do want to point out that Eli Manning played really well. He got rid of the ball quickly, was accurate down the field, and gave his team a chance. I think Manning has been somewhere between bad and awful the other times I've watched him this year, so I wanted to highlight what I thought was a good performance by him.

As far as the offensive line goes, I thought it was probably their best performance to date as well, particularly when it came to running the ball. They weren't perfect (they weren't great at getting to the second level) but they did a consistent job of at least handling San Francisco's down linemen. That let their backs gain 3 to 5 yards on first and second down far more consistently than they have been throughout the year.

One place New York had a lot of success was at the edge of the defense, and with a toss play in particular.

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This is simple football, but it's executed well. Both tight ends block inside to pin the defense, the left tackle (Ereck Flowers, 74) pulls and kicks out, and the fullback (Shane Smith, 43) leads into the alley. Football 101. The guy with the most difficult block is the inside tight end (Rhett Ellison, 85). Hooking a head-up defensive end as tight end isn't a gimme block by any means, but Ellison does a nice job. He gets just enough help from fellow tight end Evan Engram (88) to make sure he doesn't lose the block the late. Smith also does a really nice job of completely swallowing the safety down the field.

The Giants ran the play so well in the first half, they decided to call it again in the second half and had similar success.

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A little different alignment by San Francisco, so Ellison's block is much easier this time. Engram misses his block on the inside linebacker, but the running back breaks that tackle (it was a refreshing change of pace to see a New York running back break a tackle). Flowers does a pretty good job kicking out the edge defender (Eli Harold, 57). And once again, Smith at fullback does one helluva job blocking a defensive back (Dontae Johnson, 36). That's domination right there. This was a real good concept for New York this past Sunday.

I also thought New York's pass protection was pretty good for the most part. They were helped by how quickly Manning was getting rid of the ball, but it was a fine performance.

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This is the Giants' last offensive play of the game, and that's one clean pocket. Now, Flowers is helped by a slip at left tackle and the right guard (Jon Halapio, 75) is probably getting away with a hold, but it's still a clean pocket. Everyone else is good on this play.

Halapio was the worst of the Giants' linemen this past Sunday, and had a couple plays like the one above where he probably could've been called for a hold. Flowers is a funny guy to watch, because he looks like a million bucks physically, but is incredibly awkward technically, though not as bad as his reputation leads you to believe. He shouldn't have been a first-round pick, but he probably is an NFL starting-caliber tackle (one of the best 40 offensive tackles in the game would be my guess). It looks ugly as he's doing it, but he does a passable job of keeping guys off the quarterback.

The Giants only gave up two sacks all game, and they were basically mirror images of each other given up by two different guys.

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Justin Pugh (67) moved from left guard to right tackle earlier this year and is pretty clearly New York's best offensive lineman. But he gets beat cleanly for a strip-sack here. This is bad technique in a couple of different spots. First, he's dropping his head. Also, he's clamping with his hands rather than punching. For the most part, you want to shoot your hands like two jabs coming straight ahead. This is like he's trying catch a fly. The result is getting beat by a pretty mediocre swim move.

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That's Bobby Hart (68) in at right tackle. He played so bad in the first week of the season it made me question whether I could write about the Giants for a full year. He replaced Pugh in the second half, so I'm going to have Jon Gruden replace me for this next paragraph:

Jon Gruden: You guys remember former World Wrestling Federation Champion Bret "The Hitman" Hart out of Calgary? I loved that guy. What a competitor, what a champion. Well, I like to call THIS guy Bobby "The HIT Man" Hart. Because he's gonna get your quarterback HIT, man."

Thanks coach. I thought Hart's hands were much better than Pugh's were on his sack, but you cannot drop your head this much. Hart is totally out of balance when the defensive end makes his move so he also gets beat by a pretty mediocre swim move. I say "mediocre" because it's not particularly fast and the pass-rusher (Ronald Blair, 98) doesn't really turn his shoulders to make a smaller target. This is more bad blocking than it is good rushing.

That'll do it for this week, and will put a fork in the Giants for this year. I think the offensive line is playing better now than they were at the beginning of the year -- although playing the 49ers might have helped -- but I don't think a ton of people want to read about the offensive line of a one-win team every week. I'll be off for Thanksgiving next week and we'll be back with a new team (one that has a shot at the playoffs) for the stretch run.

Posted by: Ben Muth on 17 Nov 2017

16 comments, Last at 18 Nov 2017, 2:22pm by mehllageman56

Comments

1
by thewhitesnake8 :: Fri, 11/17/2017 - 12:07pm

I'm biased for sure, but I'd like to see how the heck the Vikings formed a pretty good line with the guys they signed/drafted.

3
by JoeyHarringtonsPiano :: Fri, 11/17/2017 - 12:40pm

Well, since the Vikings had injury replacement tackles last year who were only slightly more useful than tackling dummies, it's probably not a big surprise that they're way better with NFL-quality tackles. This is probably asking too much, but an article with before/after gifs would be kind of cool.

11
by thewhitesnake8 :: Fri, 11/17/2017 - 3:59pm

Right, the knock on the signings were that the two guys Reiff and Remmers were not all that good, just happened to be free agents in a barren off-season for quality linemen. Seems to me like the line play has gone from downright terrible, to high-quality, a phrase which I heard no one use to describe the play of Reiff or Remmers.

14
by JoeyHarringtonsPiano :: Fri, 11/17/2017 - 6:13pm

Maybe Remmers gets a bad rap because he was abused by Von Miller on a big stage. Calling Reiff "not all that good" is probably not fair. I would say he was like the Alex Smith (pre-2017) or tackles...solid but not spectacular. Maybe he's elevated his play in Minnesota.

2
by jtr :: Fri, 11/17/2017 - 12:40pm

What Pugh tries on that sack is known as the hug technique and it's all the rage in the NFL these days. Green Bay in particular uses it all the time, and other teams are catching on; I noticed the Steelers doing it a lot last night for instance.
The idea is that by attacking the defender's shoulder pads from the outside rather than straight ahead, you don't give him an angle to slap your hands away. Then you hold on for dear life, knowing that the refs won't throw a flag as long as you stay squared up on the guy. If you do it right, the only thing the defender can do is try to go straight through you, so you just have to anchor against the bull rush. Flowers does it properly on the other side of that play. Here's a more detailed breakdown:

https://youtu.be/VKzcfrriEME

4
by billprudden :: Fri, 11/17/2017 - 1:11pm

I'd love a column on why/how my Raiders' Oline went from great to merely good.

5
by Raiderfan :: Fri, 11/17/2017 - 2:15pm

Seconded!

6
by mehllageman56 :: Fri, 11/17/2017 - 2:17pm

With what's going on in Buffalo, the Raiders have a shot at being the team Muth jumps to.

9
by Tundrapaddy :: Fri, 11/17/2017 - 3:40pm

"we'll be back with a new team (one that has a shot at the playoffs) for the stretch run."

It sounds like you may have to wait for any Muth review of the Raiders' O-line.

7
by mehllageman56 :: Fri, 11/17/2017 - 2:19pm

Just want to ask a question as a Jets fan: If you were Sam Darnold, and the Giants are the team picking first, do you come out? Which line between the three probables (Cleveland, New York, San Francisco) is most likely to get Rosen or Darnold destroyed?

8
by smutsboy :: Fri, 11/17/2017 - 2:39pm

I'd make my decision strictly based on head coach and quality of front office/franchise.

Assuming the Giants fire Reese and McAdoo, they're one of the more reliable franchises in the NFL these days.

I like Hue Jackson a lot, but neither Cleveland nor the NYJ are reliable franchises to not be a dumpster fire in any given season.

16
by mehllageman56 :: Sat, 11/18/2017 - 2:22pm

Perhaps I should have elaborated on my original point. The offensive tackles available in free agency are really poor, and drafting a quarterback in the first round precludes getting McGlinchey or Orlando Brown. Whoever gets drafted by the Giants will be dealing with turnstiles as tackles for the first year at least.

The Jets aren't going to be in position to draft Rosen or Darnold unless they fall to 5 or worse. They also aren't a reliable dumpster fire; this will be the first year they have had consecutive losing seasons since 1996. The other team in the mix for the first pick, the Niners, hasn't been well run in a while, and their ownership situation may be better than Cleveland's but not by as much as people would think. The Maras have been great owners in New York, so they may be the safest best in terms of ownership, but that team has been mediocre for a while. The two miraculous Super Bowl runs mask their mediocrity over the last ten years. Perhaps they hire the right people, but it is almost a certainty that team has terrible offensive line play next year if they don't use their first pick on an offensive tackle. Sitting Darnold or Rosen behind Eli for a year is probably the best idea.

10
by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Fri, 11/17/2017 - 3:40pm

Can I suggest Detroit?

I'd love a breakdown of a how a good pass blocking line can be utterly inept at run blocking, and vice-versa.

12
by Dan :: Fri, 11/17/2017 - 4:53pm

I am really curious about the Rams' turnaround; wondering how much OL play has contributed to it.

But it sounds like maybe you've already picked the new team, so all these comments are for naught.

13
by theslothook :: Fri, 11/17/2017 - 5:28pm

I get a sense from Ben that his oline reviews are fairl muted or even negative most of the time. I also get a sense from his writing that he really does give the oline a lot of slack but it's still rarely positive. Do I take that as yet another anecdotal data point that oline play is down from the past

15
by Happy Fun Paul :: Sat, 11/18/2017 - 11:43am

Re the 4th GIF...

Is Reuben Foster (#56 on SF's defense) allowed to use the goalpost for support like that? :-)