The New York Giants’ much-maligned offensive line will feature its sixth starting configuration of the season on Sunday when Justin Pugh sits out with Bobby Hart likely starting at right tackle. That has to be part of the reason former Giants and current NFL analyst Shaun O’Hara doesn’t like what he sees.
"If you want to know good offensive line coaching and good offensive line groups all you have to do is turn on the tape and all their footwork looks the same. They're all stepping with the same feet. In combo blocks they all look the same,” O’Hara said during an appearance this week on the ‘Game Theory and Money’ podcast. “The Giants, you turn them on, they look like five totally different offensive linemen. They don't have the same footwork."
Whether that’s a shot at Giants offensive line coach Mike Solari or not isn’t clear. Take it any way you want. With guys going from position to position (Pugh, John Jerry and Brett Jones have all played two spots this season) it shouldn’t be surprising that things don’t always look right.
O’Hara addressed a variety of other topics related to the Giants’ offensive line.
Of course, O’Hara was asked — and had a lot to say — about the often-criticized third-year left tackle.
"He's gotten better this year. He's still kind of become the whipping boy in New York. If Eli gets hit it's automatically Flowers' fault. That's kind of the narrative that's gone on,” O’Hara said. "He still struggles with a lot of elementary aspects and techniques in o-line play, which that to me is what's frustrating to see and what's a head scratcher.”
At times we see Flowers beaten by defenders he should be sealing off on the back side of run plays. O’Hara has a theory:
“I think he's really tight in the hips and he can't open up and run. As good as they've said his footwork is coming out he's not as athletic as you would think he would be,” he said.
We have also heard multiple times that Flowers’ usage of his hands is inconsistent. Here’s O’Hara on that:
“He's always struggled with his hands. He looks like Yogi Bear the way that he just kind of hugs everybody. He got away with it in college so it's kind of become a bad habit for him,” O’Hara said.
"You can see him working on it, he's really trying. when he gets his hands inside he's a really good left tackle because he's really strong. But he doesn't trust that punch and when he starts to go against a speed rusher or a guy that's got a little shake 'n bake he doesn't trust the punch so then he just grabs. It's kinda like his safety net, and that's where he gets himself in trouble."
We have also seen video clip after video clip of Flowers dropping his head in pass protection. O’Hara explains why that happens:
"The other thing I look at is you should never have your face in the block in pass pro. Anytime you watch a tackle and you see he got beat, nine times out of 10 it's because he got his face in the block When you bring your face with the punch and they chop 'em (your hands) down your head goes down, too, and when that happens you're done, they're by your shoulder,” O’Hara said.
"That's one of the things that Ereck Flowers really needs to work on. I can't tell you how many times I've seen him get beat and it's just that simple getting your face into the block."
A third-year player, Jones has seen his most extensive action this season. He has started one game at left guard, and Sunday will be his fourth straight start at center in place of Weston Richburg, who remains out with a concussion.
"I think Brett Jones has actually done a really good job. I think he's been phenomenal in the run game and he's a little spark plug. He's like the size of a fire hydrant, but he’s got really run action,” O’Hara said. “One of the things we always say as o lineman is 'get your feet out of the hole.' It creates movement in the run game, but also protects you from guys falling on your ankles, that's how you get hurt. He does a great job getting his feet out of the hole on back blocks and a lot of those 'A' gap runs that we saw Orleans Darkwa bust against Denver."
The running game
The Giants are 30th in the NFL in rushing attempts per game (21.3), 22nd in yards per rushing attempt (3.9) and 27th in rushing yards per game at 83.3. In their only victory of the season, over the Denver Broncos, the Giants ran the ball 32 times for 148 yards. That was offensive coordinator Mike Sullivan’s first game calling plays.
"The Giants o line, here's the problem. The problem is that a lot of their runs are shotgun runs and they're out of two-point (stance). They don't get to fire out and be super-aggressive a lot of times, and then at the end of the game they try to go into their four-minute offense and they try to run run plays they haven't been running all game long and it doesn't work,” O’Hara said.
"I'm sure they're frustrated, too, as offensive linemen if you don't get 25 runs in a game it's hard to get rhythm. We saw once Mike Sullivan took over they kind of committed to that run. As long as they do that it will help them out, but right now they don't have anybody to throw it to. It's really a hot mess right now."
NOTE: If you want to listen to everything O’Hara said, his appearance starts at the 42-minute mark and lasts 15 minutes.