In this week's film study, we take a look at something of a sore spot for a lot of us New York Giants fans. The inability of the defense to stop running game. Part of their struggles is easy to explain. Rashad Jennings (PFF run grade of +2.4) has been out and he's been the Giants' most consistent weapon on the ground. It's more than just that, though.
Who's more to blame? Andre Williams (PFF run grade of -1.8), the inexperienced rookie, or the run blocking of the offensive line? The PFF run blocking numbers for the offensive line don't look good. Here's what they are:
William Beatty: +4.0
Weston Richburg: - 5.1
J.D. Walton: - 6.5
John Jerry: - 8.2
Justin Pugh: - 2.0
Beatty (who has been terrific this year ... most of the time) is the only one, according to Pro Football Focus, worth a damn when it comes to run blocking. Pugh has been mediocre, and the interior has been much, much worse. Let's take a look at some of the film.
Will Beatty Is Good
I'm an optimist, so I'm looking at the bright side of things first. I think Beatty justifies his positive PFF grade in the run blocking. He's not somebody that gets credited when it comes to athletic tackles, but he's one of the more athletic ones in the league. He gets to the second level very quickly, sheds the first opponent and makes a crucial block to spring Williams. This run is nobody's "fault" per say, it's just evidence that Earl Thomas is an otherworldly talent. He's playing single-high safety. Watch how fast he reads the play, how fast he reacts, and how insanely fast he closes and hits Williams.
Where Andre Williams Loses
This is a great example of the vision that Williams lacks. You've got two gaps you can run through, the "A" gap between Walton and Richburg, which is pretty huge, or the "B" gap between Pugh and Jerry, which is even huger. Williams goes through neither, and it's because of lack of vision.
You may be saying, wait, IXI, Andre has vision, he sees the Seattle defensive back (23) coming up and filling the gap. Well, yeah. I ask you in return, my dear reader, that if I asked you who you'd take in the open field one on one, Williams or a cornerback, who you taking? Exactly. Williams should've lowered the boom. Instead, he hesitates and does a little shimmy trying to decide which gap to take in the backfield, and recognizes too late that the linebacker (50) is there to meet him in the B gap. This was a well-blocked play, and as a runner, you are responsible for some of the second- and third-level guys coming up. Some guys beat the crashing defender to the gap with their speed. That's clearly not Andre's game, so he needs to beat them with power. Andre's lack of decisiveness and vision led him to hitting the hole with the force of cotton candy, rather than the Mack truck he can be.
You Can't Blame The Offensive Line All The Time
A crucial element to any rushing attack is ancillary personnel doing their part to help as run blockers. Larry Donnell is an athletic receiving tight end, but he'll never get mistaken for Martellus Bennett, in part to his awful run blocking. Here's an example. The guy can't keep his man engaged for more than a second or two. If the Giants had a speed back, it would be okay, but Williams is a bit slow as it is, so this is the result. He got five yards by basically falling forward, but it could have been so much more.
Pugh makes a good seal block for this off tackle run on the right side. Donnell disengages from his assignment way too early and the result is Williams getting caught from behind. If Williams can just get past Donnell's guy, he can cut inside and allow Pugh to block No. 23 out for a huge gain.
You Can Blame The Offensive Line Sometimes, Though
Invictus, this is a nice gain for Andre Williams, where is the failure here? Honestly, this could've been a big failure had Williams played like he did in the second clip. This time, it's Williams who shows excellent vision and decisiveness to bail out the offensive line.
There were two guys on the line that did their jobs on the left side. You've got Daniel Fells who lines up next to Beatty and essentially drives his assignment about seven or eight yards laterally and away from the play. Good work. The other guy is Beatty, who chips Fells' guy before getting to the second level and making a nice block on the linebacker and getting him to the ground. Another good job by the left tackle.
However, the two guards did not play this well. Look at Richburg. He gets bullied backwards and if Andre doesn't make that outstanding jump cut, he gets hit in the backfield for another loss. Then look at Jerry, who gets to his assignment in time as the pulling guard but ends up on the ground. He manages to slow his guy just enough to let Andre past him, but imagine if Andre had showed that same hesitancy? That would've been a failed block and probably a 2-yard gain. Just an example of the inconsistencies from play to play by this offensive group.
What can we gather from this? Not much, to tell you the truth. If you want to blame Williams for the problems running the ball, go ahead. You're absolutely right. If you want to blame the ancillary players around the run game not doing their jobs, go ahead. You're absolutely right. If you want to blame the offensive line, go ahead. You're absolutely right.
Get my point? Every play, there seems to be an inconsistency. Why, I'm not sure. In one play, it's Williams' hesitation. In another, it's simply offensive liinemen getting out-manned at the point of attack. It's frustrating. One thing we can take away from this, however, and mind you this is with consistency, is the continuation of Will Beatty's good play in the run game. Sure he might have a game or two where he's poor in this area, but for the most part, he's been as good as Pro Football Focus has touted him to be. He plays smart, knows his assignments and plays with leverage. If only we could say the same about the rest of the team.