As the offseason progresses, we tend to narrow our focus on a handful of draft prospects as we approach the draft. I think its important that film study be utilized as a tool to better understand what these players can bring to our beloved New York Giants.
I usually try and pick players that I think are underrated to better highlight why they can be successful prospects, but in this case, I'm going to choose a player that isn't underrated at all. No, I'm picking this player because it seems like the mock drafts have a veritable fever pitch calling for this player to be taken at No. 12 ... if he lasts. We know Lewan was just selected for the Giants in the Big Blue View Community Mock Draft.
That player is Taylor Lewan, offensive tackle from Michigan. However, before we start taking a look at some tape, let's briefly go over what you want to look for when scouting offensive tackles in particular.
At the snap, the first thing you want to look for is how quickly a lineman gets from his hand on the ground to his two-point stance. You want them to have their head snapped up quickly, and ideally their feet should already be in motion and going into their kickslide at the moment the play begins. Make note of their stance. You want to see them springing and bending at their knees. A big knock on a prospect is if they are a "waist-bender." That essentially means you are bending and pivoting at the waist and hips and makes you slower and more likely to be off balance and lunge. It also makes you more prone to a power move because you can set back when you waist bend.
As they engage the defensive lineman or linebacker, you want to see them have a wide base. While this is much more important for a guard, a wide (but not too wide) base allows tackles to absorb bullrushes and other power moves because it lets them anchor better.
Let's take a look at an example of this (you might have to click on the picture for the GIF to run).
Here, we see Texan LB Whitney Mercilus destroy Charger OT King Dunlap. Mercilus hits him with a simple bull rush, and manages to get a hit and pressure on the QB. Why? Look at how Dunlap bends. Do you see any real bend to his knees? Nope. Standing too straight up, his back is arched forward, classic waist bending. Look at how wide his feet are. They start okay, but as soon as he takes a few steps, his base starts to decrease. The result? No functional strength at all and the 260 pound Mercilus takes the 320 pound Dunlap to school.
When they are kicksliding, you want to see smooth transition as one foot slides with the other. You want it to be fast too, no sluggish movements. It doesn't matter if their feet look choppy as long as they go where they need to go and you don't trip over yourself. Be active. This is especially important when you are "mirroring" the defender. Out of your initial kick out, you follow the defensive opponent wherever he goes. Fast, active feet let you do that. Waist bending means you leave your feet behind you and you end up lunging and more often than not, whiffing.
As far as upper body goes, the big thing here is the arms and hands. You want a heavy (and by heavy, I mean like a club) punch straight inside the shoulder pads as soon as possible. Then I want your arms to be strong and hold off whatever moves the opponent throws off you. Keep him away and anchor down. You don't want to get called for holding, so don't tug and don't grab him outside his shoulders. Stay in, stay square, and stay clean.
Awareness is also a big positive if the player shows it. If you can quickly diagnose your assignment, its good and necessary. If you see a blitz coming and are able to pick it up, that's a plus. If its on a delay, seeing a college player get off his initial block and pick up the delayed blitzer is rare and something you absolutely mark down.
Finally, if you ARE beaten, that's okay. It happens. I want to see how you respond. Do you lunge, or do you quickly reset and have the athleticism to catch him from behind and shove him back out of the way?
Run blocking is a very different skill than pass blocking and a lot more complicated then what you'd expect. There's different types of blocks and even more techniques with which you execute these blocks. I won't go into much detail with that. I'm not a coach, nor do I pretend to be, and wouldn't be able to give you nearly enough detailed X's and O's on this matter. So let's just stick with the basics, shall we?
You've got your base drive block, which is the primary staple of the run blocking arsenal and the easiest to learn. You essentially look for the offensive lineman to explode off the ball, keep his head down and drive through the opponent. You want to see him have a low center of gravity, win leverage, and above all, keep driving those legs so that he doesn't lose functional strength. The objective here is to destroy your opponent. Drive him backwards. You need all the power you can get.
You've got your backside cut-off block where you are the offensive tackle on the side opposite where the ball is going. Your job here is to be quick enough to simply just get in the way of the backside pursuit and maintain discipline on your side by not missing that block. It doesn't even need to be a cut block where you take out the guys knees, all you need to do is get in the way and I'll be satisfied.
You've got a seal block/reach block where the objective is to be the play side tackle (meaning the ball comes in your direction) and you get on the outside edge of the defender quickly enough to seal him off from the play and keep him off with your arms long enough to let the runner get by you and take him out of the play. On these I look for speed, the ability to re-adjust your feet enough to stay square, and the ability to set your feet down and create a seal.
Pulls, Screens, Downfield Blocking
Final few things I look for when evaluating OTs is their ability to block in space. This is the most dependent on that particular player's athleticism. Take pulling for example. You don't see it too often from an offensive tackle because the distance is usually too great. Take a look at this play for example:
Only an athletic tackle would be able to complete that near sweep pull to the other side to take on the crashing 5. On screens, I want to see if they can lock on quickly to their target and have the speed and agility to make a clean block in space. That's really it. Anything more is a bonus, but you want to see that form of athleticism.
This time around, I'll be doing this study a little differently. Along with going with the times and analyzing each play, I'll try and use a 'ProFootballFocus' grading system to come up with the player's overall grade for that game, so you guys can see not only where my thoughts are, but how exactly I'd quantify their performance on a play to play basis.
Just like PFF, this grading system goes with a maximum possible score of +2.0 for a play, to a lowest possible score of -2.0. Also just like PFF, if the player does what an "average (read: mid-round)" prospect does, that counts as a 0.0. I can guarantee, I'd never give a +2.0, nor would I give a -2.0, it'd just have to be the worst or best play ever. In any case, I've said enough about that, so let's get on with it!
Height: 6-foot-7 Weight: 309 pounds Arm length: 33 7/8" 40: 4.87
The grades given out are totals for that time period that I illustrate. For example, between 0:11 and 0:35, I noted two passing plays, so that grade of +0.2 is for both plays together.
Run block. Drive out, good movement. Ball went opposite side. Grade: +0.0
Two pass blocking plays. Good job staying square, smooth slide out, able to get hands on opponent. Grade: +0.2
0:36 - 0:42
Scramble block, nobody to hit as he tried pulling from the backside. Bit slow on that end but no big deal. Grade: -0.1
First play was a pass block. Does a beautiful job with footwork. Gets inside shoulder pads. Grade: +0.2
Second play was run block. Didn't seem to affect the play. Grade: +0.0
1:19 - 1:31
Two straight run plays. First play, double team takes opponent back several yards. Second play, has a nice seal block on a toss play, but doesn't end up affecting play. Grade: +0.2
Bad play in pass pro by Lewan here. Nice smooth kickslide out, but has nobody to take on. Sees a delayed rush and starts to transition there but doesn't make it in time. He's caught standing too upright and the result was a weak punch that doesn't re-direct the rusher at all and allows a QB hit. Grade: -0.4
Two run plays. First play he starts inside and successfully blocks his man. Second play is a thing of beauty. Shows great awareness by sliding inside when he didn't see anybody to block and found a LB that was coming up the B-gap and took care of him. Grade: +0.4
First play in pass protection. Great job of mirroring. Was able to keep up with pass rusher all the way. Beaten at end with inside jolt, but that had no impact as the QB was far away, and it was about 4 seconds in. Perfect job. Grade: +0.2
2nd play in run blocking. Seal block traps DE inside for an off tackle run. Good athleticism to close in quickly. Grade: +0.2
Three straight pass plays. Lewan perfect on first two. Is able to get his entire upper body into opponent's shoulder pads. 3rd play you see the waist bending as Lewan tries to drive into Tuitt (his opponent). He is able to recover after getting off balance but you see that he's extending himself and eventually loses his grip on Tuitt, though he bought just enough time. I don't like that technique. Grade: +0.3
First a run play. Lewan with a drive block into No. 55 but isn't able to latch on and drive him back enough. The outside run was on Lewan's side and while he did okay, could have done more to hold up the defensive player. Grade: -0.1
Next a pass play where Lewan couldn't figure out who to block. He ends up blocking nobody and doesn't look back as the QB is pressured from the other side. Awareness needs some work here but not much he could do. Grade: -0.1
First in pass protection. Perfect technique. Lewan gets out of the snap fast, stays square. Nice wide base and doesn't allow himself to get bullied. DE is stonewalled. Grade: +0.2
Second play in run blocking. Run goes his side and he gets his man and drives him back a couple yards. Perfect form. Too bad the runner was caught from behind for a loss. Grade: +0.2
First play in pass protection. He gets beaten off the snap. Able to recover but the DL's arm over move beats him and he goes inside. Ball out very quickly, but Lewan could've been a bit faster there. Grade: -0.2
Second play in run blocking. Falls down but not before he drives his target 3 yards laterally. Shows tremendous power. Grade: +0.3
4:23 - 4:44
Three plays, all three Lewan was run blocking. First play, nice seal on his block. Second play was broken from the start, he had nobody to block. Third play, he drove his guy to the ground. All in all, a pretty decent set for him. Grade: +0.3
4:45 - 5:02
Three plays, all three pass blocking. Showed perfect form on the first play, didn't even have to engage, just mirror. Standing slightly upright, might need to get a bit lower, more bend in his knees. Similar play second time around. Third play, was pass blocking but his QB decided to take the ball in himself. Grade: +0.3
5:03 - 5:25
Both plays were run blocking. First play he explodes off the ball on a drive block but doesn't fully get his arms up and the defender is able to shed him easily. Second play he has a seal block on the opposite side of the ball which he executes flawlessly. Grade: +0.0
5:26 - 5:39
Two straight run plays. Drive blocks where Lewan gets straight to the second level. Hits on the first one, doesn't quite get a straight block on the second. Obviously athletic enough to do it seeing how smoothly and quickly he got upfield. Grade: +0.1
5:40 - 6:40
Grouping seven straight pass plays together. Why? Because they were all quite similar. Lewan again showed off his strengths, which is his kick slide. Superb, active footwork, and the ability to square up the opponent as they made their "bend." In one of those plays, however, you can see that a good bull rush almost pushed Lewan into the QB. Again, same reason. Sometimes he stays way too upright and loses that nice base he has. Has got to be more consistent. The last of these 7, he got pushed down because he lost his balance. Grade: +0.6
6:41 - 6:59
Two superb run plays. Absolutely superb. First play he is on the opposite side of the run but he gets to the 2nd level and drives the blocker down 10 yards. On the next play, he has a seal block which opens up a huge hole for his running back. Grade: +0.7
Two plays, first a pass protect. Rides the defender's momentum to take him right out of the play on the outside. Nice work. Grade: +0.1
Next a run play where he drives inside, moves his guy a couple inches but ultimately doesn't affect the play. Grade: +0.0
First play in pass protection. More of the same from Lewan. Good footwork, bit more aggressive. Grade: +0.1
Second play run blocking. Again, doesn't really affect the play but helps on a double team. Grade: +0.0
Two pass blocking plays. First one is good. Second is excellent. Shows he can handle a stunt, is able to disengage and has the awareness to get the outside stunt. Quarterback is sacked, but not though any fault of Lewan's. Grade: +0.4
7:59 - 8:15
Two bad plays by Lewan in a row. First play was a run play where he didn't push off the ball like he was supposed to, and the result was a half hearted punch with no leg drive that allowed defender to shed him and make a tackle on the runner. Grade: -0.3
The next play I suppose was pass protection though he seemed confused. He hesitates at first and then dives inside on his opponent but by then the QB has already rolled out. Grade: -0.2
8:16 - 8:36
Two straight pass plays. Watch the second play, where the defensive end (who outweighs Lewan) tries to bull his way inside and towards the QB from an outside rush. Lewan leans against him, tries extending his arms and anchors down with that nice, wide base. Knees bent too! Great form. Grade: +0.4
Three straight plays where Lewan is run blocking. Does a good enough job on the first play. Not a perfect block, didn't get square enough and was shed, but just enough of a seal to allow RB to get past. 2nd play was nice. He gets quickly upfield and makes a block on the LB. 3rd play he run blocks opposite way for QB roll out to near side. Gets his man, but nothing special. Stumbles a little. Grade: +0.3
First a run play where he essentially just dives and doesn't affect the play at all. Grade: -0.1
Then two consecutive pass blocking plays where he does well, but the team does not. Seals off inside rush on the first play and successfully blocks the defender for about 4 seconds on the next. Unfortunately, QB didn't get rid of the ball, so he is credited with allowing a pressure even though he did his job. Grade: +0.3
Four straight pass blocking plays. As you watch these, you can see him get more decisive as he pushes his inside shoulder into the defenders now. He's also not too upright for any of these plays. Doesn't allow a single pressure and again, shows that beautiful footwork. Grade: +0.7
Two run plays, two seal blocks. He's very good at these. He's completes both successfully and creates nice creases for the RB to run through. Grade: +0.4
First play was in pass protection. The passrusher didn't try and do much, but Lewan is there covering anyway. Grade: +0.0
Not a good play by Lewan as he attempts a drive block straight up as he's quickly swallowed up and the play goes for no gain on his side. Grade: -0.2
2 straight pass protects in which he shows smooth slide out and enough lateral agility to beat the defender before his bend can get to the QB. Grade: +0.3
First play is a decent drive block out, but he can't sustain it. Grade: +0.0
2nd play is pass protection, you guys know the drill by now. Doesn't allow pressure. Grade: +0.1
Three pass plays, three different results. First play, he doesn't even have to engage the DL. Just watch that smooth back kick slide work. He whiffs completely on the 2nd play, however, as he gets confused as to who to block. Doesn't matter because QB rolls the opposite way. 3rd play, Lewan absorbs a bullrush nicely because his stance was perfect. Grade: -0.1
Two run plays. Lewan tries to push upwards the first time and is mildly successful. 2nd play, he drives his guy back but the RB is caught from behind. Mixed results here. Grade: +0.0
11:34 - 11:41
Pass protection, doesn't even engage as the QB takes off with the ball. Whew. That was exhausting. Grade: +0.1
Game Charting and Stats
Total Snaps: 76
Total Grade: +5.8
Run Block Snaps: 33
Run Block Grade: +2.3
Pass Block Snaps: 43
Pass Block Grade: +3.5
QB Sacks Allowed: 0
QB Hits Allowed: 1
QB Pressures Allowed: 3
That was a bit punitive, wasn't it? If you somehow made it through that gigantic wall of text that got through that 11-minute video, you have a pretty good idea of what Taylor Lewan's strengths and weaknesses are. If you didn't, I don't blame you, so let's go over a quick summary of that.
In pass protection, if you saw the video, I don't have to tell you that his footwork and kickslide are special. His athleticism at the combine shone through and you see it with his movement skills here. His upper body strength is average, however. You saw him get pushed back a little, but it wasn't terrible. He has a few technique issues that I could see.
For one, he doesn't always fully extend his arms, which definitely doesn't help him in terms of strength. His positioning and stance is inconsistent as well. The few times he gave up pressure, its because he was too upright and he was waist bending. More often than not, however, he showed good posture, sat in his stance and was able to make full use of his mobility to mirror defenders. He had a few "derpy moments where he didn't know who to block, but that will come with time.
When it comes to run blocking, it was somewhat of a revelation to me that he seems better for a ZBS scheme than a power-pull scheme. Most of his positive grade in the run game came from his ability to reach block and seal whatever defender came into his area away, sort of like Justin Pugh. When asked to man up and drive someone off the ball, he struggled. Now, it may just be that he's going up against the 280-pound Stephon Tuitt, but he also struggled at a few points getting a few LBs driven back.
He didn't always drive forward with his legs and was caught off balance a few times. It's why I think a scheme that can maximize his athleticism and footwork like a ZBS scheme would be the best fit for him, especially because he's got elite short area quickness and can pivot very, very well.
Considering that the Giants have ZBS type linemen as it is on the edges in Pugh and Will Beatty, this would theoretically make Lewan a perfect fit here. His performance in this game (and the others that I've seen) are pretty consistent, with the same strengths and flaws. He shows tremendous upside due to the fact that he has very good games despite some technique issues that are easily fixable.
Of course, that was never the issue with him. The issue was the off the field stuff. If that checks out, there would be no qualms from me about selecting him 12th overall due to the athleticism and fit he brings to the New York Giants.