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Friday Film Room: Offensive Line Woes

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You already know the offensive line collapsed against San Francisco... But what happened?

Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Giants could have won their game Sunday against the San Francisco 49ers. They didn't, however, and the most obvious target for criticism from a frustrated fan base is quarterback Eli Manning. Manning made nearly as many mistakes in that one game as he had in the 10 previous games put together.

That being said, it is also true that football is the ultimate team game. The game was impacted by a pair of attempted touchdown passes that were perfectly placed, but the receivers didn't catch them.

And on an already shaky offensive line, an injury to Justin Pugh had a profound effect on the Giants offense. Going in to the game against the 49ers, the Giants were forced to play free-agent acquisition Charles Brown.

So what kind of effect did the combination of John Jerry at right guard and Charles Brown at right tackle have on the offense?

We're going to take a look, but fair warning -- and if you watched the game last Sunday, you already know this -- it wasn't pretty.

Play 1

The first play we're looking at is a terrific catch by Larry Donnell and some nice work in the pocket by Eli Manning. At the start of the play Donnell is lined up as an in-line tight end next to Will Beatty on the left side of the offensive line. Beatty does an excellent job of stymieing Aldon Smith, while Weston Richburg and J.D. Walton do a nice job of controlling Justin Smith. Richburg handles the initial rush well, and then hands him off to Walton as Smith tries to work inside..

Those are two crucial blocks, because the right side of the offensive line was not nearly as stout as the left.

At right guard Jerry does a decent job of meeting the defensive end's initial rush. However, he can't sustain leverage and the rusher is able to turn him parallel to the line of scrimmage and get past him. At the same time, the outside linebacker is able to easily walk Brown backwards, then disengage and cut inside of both Jerry and his man.

Had Beatty, Richburg and Walton not handled their side of the line as well as they did this could have been a costly play. Fortunately, they gave Eli plenty of pocket to step up into, and he was able to work away from the pressure and step into his throw for the big gain.

Play 2

This play is a combination of the sublime and the embarrassing.

Once again, Beatty is largely on an island with Aldon Smith, though he gets a bit of help from a chip block from Daniel Fells. Richburg and Walton again do a great job of handling Justin Smith. Likewise Jerry does a good job on this play of sustaining his block on the defensive end.

On the right side of the line, is where it gets embarrassing. Donnell mirrors the chip block that Fells give Brown some help before releasing into his route, however unlike Beatty, Brown never extends his hands to punch rookie linebacker Aaron Lynch. Instead, he trips and falls over Ray McDonald's foot as Lynch breaks an inside rush.

And this is the beautiful part: Manning displays some of that remarkable elusiveness he does in the pocket, escapes the sack by Lynch, and fires a dart to Odell Beckham Jr.

For his part, Beckham saw that Eli was in trouble, broke his route off and worked back to the ball. He then made the most of the broken play as the guy covering him fell down.

Play 3

This play is actually better than it looks.

On the left side, Beatty gets up to the second level to block Chris Borland. Beatty doesn't do a great job on this block, but credit to Borland for using his build to his advantage and getting around Beatty. Beatty gets as low as he can and tries to keep leverage, but Borland is built like a fire hydrant.

Jerry and Fells both pull across the line from the right guard and tight end spots (respectively). and do a really nice job of blowing a hole open for Andre Williams.

Walton and Richburg both try to take on defensive linemen 1-on-1, to varying degrees of success. Walton simply gets manhandled and bent backward. Richburg, meanwhile, does a decent job of controlling Justin Smith, until it's time for Smith to try to make the tackle, when he simply disengages. Again, credit to Justin Smith: He's pretty good at football.

For his own part, Williams shows nice patience while Jerry and Fells pull across to open the hole before exploding through the line of scrimmage.

The play is made for the 49ers when free safety Eric Reid comes flying down to make the hit on Williams, who was slowed while running through an arm tackle by Borland. Had Reid not been there, Williams probably could have broken the arm tackle and run for another 3-5 yards.

Play 4

This play illustrates two things: What the Giants couldn't do against the Seahawks, and what they couldn't do in this game.

Starting on the back side of the play, Beatty does a a good job of locking in a block on Justin Smith, who can't do anything until the play has already broken down. Richburg's job is to get to the second level and and prevent the middle linebacker from coming up and filling the hole that develops on the right side. Likewise, John Jerry's job its to get up to the second level and take out the other inside linebacker.

Neither one of them get it done.

At center, J.D. Walton simply gets manhandledby defensive tackle Quentin Dial.

At right tackle, Charles Brown tries against Ray McDonald, but just can't sustain the block. He winds up getting stood up losing his base from a combination of getting too upright, narrowing his stance, and then leaning into the block from his waist.

Brown's block may have been enough had the interior of the offensive line managed to make their blocks. However, Dial, Borland, and Wilhoite all converge on the hole, and Rashad Jennings.

Jennings does try to make something out of the play, but the 49ers stayed disciplined, didn't over-pursue the play, and swarmed to the football.

Final Thoughts

There is no doubt that more than anything else, Eli Manning's poor play lead to their loss against the 49ers. However, the loss of Pugh certainly contributed to Eli's play. After that injury, Eli was under siege from the right side, and the Giants' running game was even more limited than it had been.

Fortunately, the offensive line will get reinforced by the much-awaited return of Geoff Schwartz. The massive guard is one of the best run blocking offensive linemen in the league, and a good pass protector as well. As of this writing, it's unclear where he will play, as Justin Pugh's injury has created a potential opening at right tackle as well as left or right guard.

Ultimately, however, the Giants need Manning to be better -- far better -- than he was against San Francisco, but part of that will be fixing the issues on the offensive line.