There can be a legitimate argument that the biggest key towards a New York Giants turnaround is the play of the left tackle. In a division filled with elite tackles such as Tyron Smith, Trent Williams, and Jason Peters, the New York Giants left tackle often becomes an afterthought. It is the much-maligned Will Beatty, however, that is in sole possession of Pro Football Focus' top offensive tackle grade in the league (+10.1).
Since playing lights out in 2012 and earning a lucrative new contract, Beatty's play in 2013 was, well, let's just say calling him a turnstile would've been a compliment. He ended the terrible season in 2013 with a broken leg and a lot of upset fans. All of that has turned around and it's a testament to the work that Beatty has put in and the confidence he's regained. He had this to say in a recent interview:
"I am playing real good. I don’t feel like I am playing at my best. I am still out there looking at things. There are still things I can improve. There are still running blocks and downfield hitting and things like that [I can improve on]. There is still a lot of improvement, but I do feel good. I feel like going out there and just being with my teammates is my focus. Just going out there each and every play, one at a time, handle that play. Next play will take care of itself."
There are certainly areas that Beatty can improve, but to be very honest, there isn't that much. He's playing at an incredible level right now, even compared to how he played in the preseason, that is stunning. Let's take a look at one play against the New York Jets, in which Beatty gives up a sack:
Several things going on here. This, if I remember correctly, was Beatty's first game back and it shows. Several technique flaws are present. Look at his feet, his base isn't set apart enough. His feet are too close together and as a result, when he's beaten off the snap he cannot adjust.
It's okay to be beaten off the snap. It will happen. Opposing teams have good players too, and some of them are just too quick. It's about how you adjust. In that play, Beatty didn't even get his hands up off the snap and was too late in getting his punch in. The angle he took was terrible and a product of his foot placement. That's "bad" Beatty and we saw a lot of that in the 2013 season.
Now fast forward a couple months.
This is against the Washington Redskins and much like that play above, Beatty is beaten off the snap. Again, no insult against Beatty, Brian Orakpo is a pretty darn good player. Notice the difference here, though. Off the snap, his base widens, that allows him to catch up to Orakpo regardless of whether he was going to bend outside (like he did here) or move inside. Watch his punch. He didn't wait for Orakpo to make his move like he did with Quintin Coples up there. He shot his arms out almost immediately and the effect that it had was it allowed him to move his weight into Orakpo and ride him out of the play. Excellent technique, none of the flaws that he had in the preseason and 2013.
Here's another pass blocking play, this time against the Houston Texans:
Whitney Mercilus doesn't stand a chance. This is what happens when Will Beatty beats YOU off the snap. His hand work is tremendous. He starts hand-fighting immediately and forces Mercilus where Beatty wants him to go. Notice how aggressive Beatty is. He's confident and you can see that as he bulls into Mercilus. A timid Beatty that you might've seen in 2013 would let the rusher dictate when contact is made. Not this year.
As a run blocker, Beatty has also made several strides:
In the EA Sports Madden franchise, they have a rating called "awareness." Here's one example of that with Beatty having tremendous vision. He chips the nose tackle, helping out Weston Richburg, who got squared up too quickly before getting to the second level and blocking out #56. That linebacker isn't just some random guy either, that's Brian Cushing and it was the block that sprang Rashad Jennings for at least an extra seven or eight yards. It's the confidence, vision, and technique that Beatty exhibits that makes it possible.
Beatty didn't lose the ability to play football at a high level after 2012. It was clear that something was bothering him, whether that be something physical or something mental, he wasn't using proper technique and he wasn't playing with confidence.
That's changed. After a few early struggles in Week 1 against the Detroit Lions, Beatty has been firing out of his stance, getting his punch in heavy and early, and throwing his weight around. He's playing with more confidence, he's keeping his stance wider, and he's taking good angles.
Will this last? Nobody knows, but for now, Beatty has been the key to this revitalized offense. Eli Manning was gun-shy last year as 13 sacks came from the left side. Not one sack so far this year, and the Giants are enjoying it immensely.