We've had quite the spirited discussions around here at Big Blue View. The offensive line has been brought up a lot in these discussions because through four preseason games, they have been, well, offensive. However, it's not enough to just say the line isn't good enough and that's why there's a failure.
Indeed, there have been times where a defensive player has beaten an offensive lineman one-on-one. Having watched all four games again, I can tell you that it has happened six times, total over these games. Counting them all, you have:
Geoff Schwartz dinged once against Muhammad Wilkerson and the New York Jets. Here's the play:
You've also got Justin Pugh getting beaten once against the Indianapolis Colts like this, as well as the play allowed by Will Beatty against Jason Babin and the New York Jets to create a forced fumble from Eli Manning. We all also remember the Jarvis Jones sack off Charles Brown in the game against the Pittsburgh Steelers as well. The last two pressures of this kind were allowed by Brown and Brandon Mosley in different games.
I'm not going to throw up all of those plays because you get the idea. Those were breakdowns by specific offensive linemen as they were beaten by the guy in front of them. That speaks to either a mistake in fundamentals by the offensive player, or just simply an overpowering presence by the attacking defensive player.
The fact that I saw that six times in four games was heartening. It showed me that the offensive linemen, in terms of talent and technique, weren't as bad as I had originally thought. You may be wondering, well then, why was Manning under duress much more than that?
I think, and this is just me, that I have two answers for you. One is that the running backs have done a really, really bad job of pass protection. The other, I've mentioned it in previous threads before, but I'm pulling out my video evidence of it here, and it's trust.
What do I mean by trust? A few things. There are some schematic issues that need to be addressed and the core of that seems to be specific players not trusting the guy next to him. That split second hesitation is one split second too much for some of the faster defenders to put the heat on Manning. As you'll see later, Manning himself can also be the cause of a few pressures through this "trust." So let's take a look at some (not all, but I got most of 'em) of the plays that have caused these big amounts of pressure and why:
On this play, we see two issues in one play. Eli Manning is doing a designed roll out on a nice pass play to Rueben Randle. However, he's put under duress almost instantaneously. Why is that? Well for starters, Rashad Jennings completely whiffs on the backside rusher. That's been a recurring theme this preseason, the running backs have had a lot of trouble getting to their spots in pass protection all year.
Secondly, you see late recognition by Mosley. A schematic issue. He focuses a bit too intensely on Justin Pugh. Too much so that he forgets his assignment and doesn't block his guy. Pugh is fine on his own. It's a designed roll to Pugh's side for goodness sake, there's no need for help inside from Mosley. The result is that he hesitates and by the time he turns around, his guy is past him for the pressure and the early throw. It's the first of more than a few missteps with this combination on the right side.
The GIF cuts out before you see the end result (which is Manning lying on his back), but you see the issue with the offensive line here. The culprits are, once again, Pugh and Mosley. This time, it's a simple stunt and blitz by the Jets. Pugh initially has #98 but passes him off to Mosley like he's supposed to. Mosley does his job and picks up No. 98 going outside.
However, the trouble starts when the blitzers comes into the vacated spot where No. 98 was. Pugh hesitates for a split second before passing off the defender to Mosley. He doesn't trust that Mosley will be there to pick him up and takes one extra step. That's all the blitzer needs to blow past the two linemen and into Eli for a jarring hit.
This one is a bit quick so you might have to see it a couple times to really figure out what's going on. This is another simple stunt with a blitzer coming in. This time it is D'Qwell Jackson. We've all seen this play where Pugh gets smoked for the sack on Manning. Problem is, Pugh was in good position to take on Jackson and prevent the play. So what happened?
On the surface, it looks just like Pugh whiffed, which he did. The reason however, looks to be another issue with trust. Jennings was in pass protection this play and was supposed to take on the edge blitzer, which he did. Unfortunately in slow motion, which I don't have available to GIF for you, you'd be able to see Pugh take a couple false steps out, as if to help block the outside blitzer. He doesn't trust that Jennings gets there in time. With those steps, Jackson fills the gap and is too quick for Pugh to move inside fast enough and Eli gets crushed. You can even see on the above play that Pugh ends up turned around because of it.
Another blown assignment. This time, it's a bit more acceptable because it is rookie Weston Richburg. The Colts overloaded the left side with blitzers. Andre Williams is in pass protection here and he's stuck between a rock and hard place as he has two guys coming straight at him.
Richburg fires out of his stance and goes to help the center immediately. He forgets to check his own assignment before breaking off and helping and that leaves Williams to block two guys. Williams does a decent enough job getting a hit on one of the blitzers, but the other one has a free path and absolutely annihilates Curtis Painter. It's this kind of stuff that needs to get fixed. It isn't the ability to block guys, but assignment recognition is a crucial part of being able to play.
This is another quick play to showcase the need for the running backs to learn how to pass protect better. Williams is in at running back and his assignment is to pass block. He looks upfield for any gap blitzers but completely forgets to check the edge. It's a good thing this was a designed three-step drop for Nassib, otherwise he would've been planted.
The final play I'm going to highlight is the forced fumble against Buffalo. Most people blame it on Charles Brown. I disagree, the blame should be spread a bit more evenly. The initial move by No. 55 is a very good one on Brown, however he recovers very well and seals off his guy. Eli doesn't trust him, though, and panics. Ditto with Pugh. His guy has good leverage on Pugh, but he sticks with him and Pugh eventually ends up pushing him way upfield.
Manning doesn't trust Pugh, either. So what happens? Manning tucks and runs away way too early. The 2011 version of Eli Manning would step up in that pocket and it would be clean for him with Pugh and Brown pushing their guys away. That way, he gets a chance to step into a throw and convert. Instead, he runs and Schwartz, who had been playing Kyle Williams on the stunt outside is now in a bad position. You WANT Schwartz to keep Williams on the outside, so he was doing his job, but Eli then runs towards that direction and the end result is Manning running for his life, getting stripped, and making the offensive line look bad when it was nobody's fault.
There have been problems with this offense. A myriad of problems. The offensive line has got to do with a lot of those problems. However, these problems are fixable. The Giants are not dealing with an issue regarding talent deficits on the line. At least, not to me, anyway. The issue here is scheme and trust. The players clearly have yet to fully understand and execute the scheme.
That isn't to say the scheme is bad, the issue is they are struggling to learn it. They are forgetting assignments, they are hesitant. That is what's causing a lot of these problems. They struggle every time the opposing team blitzes. They struggle every time the opposing team runs a simple stunt or twist.
That's concerning. What's the antidote to this? I don't know. More time? Probably will help. This is what people talk about when wanting "chemistry" on the offensive line. You know the guy next to you and you know his tendencies. Had they had that, you probably see most of the pressures incurred on Giants quarterbacks this preseason vanish. Just how much time do they need to come together, though?
They had better get it together fast. Like it or not, the regular season doesn't wait for anybody.