The New York Giants bookended the 2015 NFL Draft with big offensive linemen.
With their first selection -- ninth overall -- they selected Ereck Flowers out of Miami University. They took Flowers with the intention of him starting at right tackle and eventually, once he learned the NFL game and it was time to move on from WIll Beatty, move to left tackle.
With their final selection -- 226th overall -- the Giants selected Bobby Hart out of Florida State. Though Hart was a right tackle for the Seminoles, the Giants drafted him with the intention of moving the 20 year old senior inside to right guard.
With a seventh- round pick nothing is certain. Hart is still young, just turning 21 in August, but has played a lot of football at a high level, including a pair of National Championship games. The hope had to be that the GIants could take their time in developing him and ultimately have an in-house replacement for Geoff Schwartz at guard.
But in the immortal words of Mike Tyson "Everybody has a plan until they get punched in the face." And did the Giants ever get punched.
Will Beatty tore a pectoral muscle in the weight room shortly after Flowers was drafted, moving Flowers from being penciled in at right tackle to being inked in at left tackle. Then, just before the Giants' Week 11 bye, they lost Justin Pugh to a concussion and Weston Richburg to a high ankle sprain. Those injuries took John Jerry and Dallas Reynolds off the bench and onto the field, making Hart the next man up.
Then, of course, Geoff Schwartz's season was ended by a fractured leg after just 16 snaps against the Washington Redskins, bringing Hart onto the field at right guard.
Injuries didn't afford the Giants the time they wanted, but in the span of one play, the future was now with Flowers at left tackle and Hart at right guard.
With the word that Pugh and Richburg may both be back for Sunday's game against the Jets, but Marshall Newhouse now dealing with a back injury, Hart looks to move outside to right tackle. In a scant five months, Flowers and Hart have gone from the bookends to the Giants' draft to the bookends of their starting offensive line.
We have been over Flowers time and again, the highlight being Ed reaching out to Duke Manyweather and Dan Hatman for a terrific film breakdown. But what about Hart? He is still something of an enigma to Giants fans, though as with all late-round rookies, we're sure that he is a star waiting to be born if only Old Man Coughlin would let him play. He finally got his first real NFL action against Washington, so let's take the opportunity to take a look and see what we have in Hart.
The Giants want to run the football. That's not saying much, because every team wants to run the football, but I figured I'd mention it. In truth though, everyone knows that Eli Manning is the franchise, and Odell Beckham Jr. is the spark that ignites the offense. Therefore, keeping Eli clean, upright, and on his feet long enough to deliver the ball to Beckham (and others) is the offensive line's most important job.
We'll start with Hart's first pass play, the third play of his professional career.
The Redskins crowd the line of scrimmage, showing heavy pressure. The Giants line up with two running backs, one tight end. The play is intended to be a shock play to take advantage of Washington trading coverage for pressure, and the Giants do a good job picking up the blitz, with everybody accounted for.
Hart gets the 5-technique while Newhouse picks up the outside linebacker, escorting him past Eli and helping him into the turf. Initially, Reynolds deals with the nose tackle while Hart has a one on one with the defensive end, however the nose tackle opts to take an outside route as Newhouse runs the linebacker past the pocket. That allows the guard/center double team, giving Hart some help with the DE.
Hart does a pretty good job of stymieing the rush, but he has a few technical flaws. His base is nice and wide, although he bends at the waist a bit much, letting his pad level rise. That lets the end get under his pad and bend him back. Hart also lets his hands get a bit wide.
Ultimately, he and Reynolds do their job and the turf in front of Eli stays clutter-free. He has some issues, but they don't bite him this play.
Now we see a play where Hart's technique issues do get him in trouble.
Washington lines up in a base four-man front for this play, and only send four rushers. The left side of the line does a pretty good job of keeping their men well away from Eli, but the right side gets pushed around. On the outside, Ryan Kerrigan puts Newhouse on roller skates and simply pushes him back, almost into Eli's lap.
Next to him, Hart has a one on one with the 3-technique, and he has a rough go of it as well. Once again, he keeps a nice wide base, and this time does a better job of keeping his hands inside the tackle's shoulders. However those same hands are frantic, letting the tackle initiate contact and get under Hart's pads. Then, his tendency to play upright and let his pads rise lets the tackle bend him backward and push him back into the pocket.
As Eli escapes, Hart does re-anchor and get in better position, but the play is basically over by then.
For the last pass play, I thought I'd show a good look for Hart.
The Redskins send five rushers, while the Giants elect to go with a "scat" protection, releasing both Rashad Jennings and Will Tye into shallow routes.
The line largely does its job, however, so Eli can take his shot down the field.
In particular, Hart does an excellent job of getting into position, getting his hands on the defender -- inside of the shoulders -- and sinking his hips. Once he's latched on, the defender just can't move Hart, and he even helps to slow down Kerrigan as he beats Newhouse on the inside move.
There really isn't too much else to say. Hart does a lot right, and really shows off his upside. The Giants (and Eli) have to hope that he can keep building on plays like this.
Hey, remember when I said that the Giants want to run the ball? You can go back and check, I'll wait.
Yep, see? I did say it.
Well, let's take a look at a couple of run plays. There weren't many running plays after Hart came into the game. With a patch-work and inexperienced line, not to mention playing from big deficit, that makes sense. But I found a couple.
Ordinarily, when the Giants run a power scheme with a pulling guard, it is Pugh who pulls from his position on the left. That's the major reason why the Giants have been more effective running to the right than the left. Getting Schwartz and Pugh on the same side is pretty formidable. Or was, anyway.
But with Pugh out and Jerry at left guard, the younger and more athletic Hart gets to pull, and he is a bit clumsy at it.
Jerry down blocks on the nose tackle, which means that its Hart's job to pull, block the outside linebacker, and blow open a hole. The problem is that while Pugh is able to quickly and smoothly navigate around the center and right guard, Hart is slower and gets caught up on Jerry, slowing the play down slightly. When he gets there he delivers a good block, moving his man back, but the middle linebacker had stepped up to fill the hole while Jennings waited for his block to develop.
It's possible that Reynolds was supposed to slip out into the second level and block the MIKE. He and Newhouse block the same tackle for a moment before Newhouse switches to the left defensive end.. Tye first looked to block the end, but ultimately winds up looking for work.
One of the best parts of football is seeing guys in uniforms that you root for making other guys wearing uniforms that you root against do things that they don't want to do. At it's heart, that's what football is all about.
That and touchdown dances, especially fat guy touchdown dances.
That is exactly what happens on (most of) this play. This is a straight ahead power run up the middle. When the Giants have made positive yardage, it has been with plays like this, and this is where Hart really shines. Hart gets matched up on the nose tackle again, and does a really great job of getting his hands on him and locked in, keeping his pad level low and driving the tackle backward. He gets help from Reynolds, who works the tackle's right shoulder to keep him turned away from the line of scrimmage until he [Reynolds] gets to the second level and blocks the middle linebacker, who had dropped into a shallow zone before recognizing the run and coming back to help.
What ultimately keeps this play from being a bigger gain is, of course, John Jerry. Jerry is the only blocker who doesn't generate any kind of movement off the snap. Flowers drives his man backward, Reynolds and Hart push the nose tackle, and even Jerome Cunningham comes across to knock Ryan Kerrigan out of the play.
Jerry not only doesn't generate any movement with the 3-technique but he gets knocked back himself, and the 3-tech is able to easily shed the block and make the tackle from behind.
Did the Giants get the steal of the draft in Bobby Hart?
But if they got a guy who can go from roster afterthought to viable backup, they did well for the 226th pick. If he can build on that to eventually become an effective starter, than I would say that his pick was knocked out of the park.
Hart has been an intriguing prospect since he was drafted. When you are drafting a 20-year-old offensive lineman, usually they are a redshirt junior with a sky-high athletic upside but not much football under their belt. Hart has played a lot of football at a high level, but isn't the kind of athlete who makes scouts drool. But he is a player who might just have a future at right guard. He flashes the ability to pass protect against some quality linemen, and is a straight bull when allowed to drive block downhill.
But perhaps the best thing about Hart was the energy he played with. It was something that Tom Coughlin remarked on:
"He did okay. He had his moments, he had a couple of things that weren't done the way we wanted to. But he brought energy and he kept his poise and he battled, and those were pluses."
He wasn't a lost or overwhelmed kid, thrown into the fire with grown men. He played with energy and enthusiasm, and was responsible for the most heartening thing I saw all game. This came immediately after Beckham's phenomenal 21-yard touchdown, and with all the other athletes on the field, the 330-pound Hart was the first one to the end zone to hug Odell. The second was Flowers.